Charles F. Wu - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Charles F. Wu

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration


Charles Wu is a Managing Director and founding partner of BayNorth Capital, a private real estate equity firm based in Boston.  The BayNorth team has invested approximately $2.6 billion of capital for seven distinct funds for 45 institutional clients.  Investments include equity, participating debt, joint ventures, land acquisitions and partnerships.

Prior to co-founding BayNorth Capital in July 2004, Charlie co-founded the private equity firm Charlesbank Capital Partners in July 1998 and was a Managing Director of its predecessor firm, Harvard Private Capital Group, the private equity and real estate investment unit of Harvard Management Company.  Before joining Harvard Private Capital in 1995, Charlie was a Managing Director at Aldrich Eastman & Waltch, where he directed the restructuring group and was a portfolio manager.  Prior to AEW, Charlie worked at Morgan Stanley in their corporate finance department.

Charlie has an MBA, with distinction, and a BA, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University. 

Charlie serves on the Facilities and Capital Planning Advisory Committee for the Harvard Corporation and is on the Board of Trustees of Newton Wellesley Hospital.  He was a founding Board member of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy , is a past President of the Newton Schools Foundation, and has chaired Boston Mayor Menino’s Economic Advisory Board.  Since 2006, Charlie has been a frequent lecturer at Harvard’s and Dartmouth’s Tuck Schools of Business. 

Cases and Teaching Materials
  1. Miami Price: Bidding for an Iconic Transit-Oriented Development Site

    Charles F. Wu, Aaron Stolear, Vitali Bourchtein and Sayiddah Fatima McCree

    13th Floor-Adler, a partnership of 13th Floor Investments and Adler Group, was compiling a response to a Miami-Dade County Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP's prize was the opportunity to develop a 7.5+/- acre parking lot, adjacent to a heavy-rail rapid transit station, into a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Miami. To win, 13th Floor-Adler had to submit a proposal that was the "highest and best use" for the land, catered to the County's demands for workforce housing, provided a market return for investors and compensated the County for the use of the land.
    Throughout its history, Miami has been subject to a number of real estate booms and busts. Intricate expertise of Miami’s demand drivers were necessary in order to succeed. Arnaud Karsenti (MBA 2006), founder and Principal at 13th Floor Investments (13th Fl), with over $1B worth of completed transactions in the South Florida market, had this well of expertise. Furthermore, the partnership with the Adler Group, headed by Michael M. Adler, provided additional credibility for the proposal due to their 50+ years’ experience in Miami.
    At "Link @ Douglas," can Karsenti and his team be "placemakers" creating a true live, work, and play environment, deliver market returns to investors and create a winning proposal that caters to the demands of the Miami-Dade County officials?

    Keywords: land valuation; real estate development; real estate; land markets; land investment; Property; Design; Valuation; Real Estate Industry; Miami;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., Aaron Stolear, Vitali Bourchtein, and Sayiddah Fatima McCree. "Miami Price: Bidding for an Iconic Transit-Oriented Development Site." Harvard Business School Case 218-034, September 2017.  View Details
  2. A Green Forest Grows in Brooklyn: Joint Venturing with the Chinese

    Charles F. Wu

    MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and CEO of Forest City Ratner (“Forest City”) was planning for yet another protracted discussion over the merits of a green roof for part of her $5 billion dollar new development in Brooklyn. While the low seven-figure cost overrun was to be “value-engineered” and in the scheme of things, this budgeted item was not going to impact the financial success of the project, it had become a heated source of contention. Was the debate symptomatic of something deeper that was amiss in the relationship?

    Keywords: joint ventures; real estate development; real estate; EB-5; sustainability; promote; waterfall; Joint Ventures; Environmental Sustainability; Relationships; Real Estate Industry; China;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F. "A Green Forest Grows in Brooklyn: Joint Venturing with the Chinese." Harvard Business School Case 218-010, July 2017.  View Details
  3. SOHO China: Transformation in Progress

    Charles F. Wu and Alexander W. Schultz

    In 2016 against the backdrop of a challenging Chinese macroeconomic environment, SOHO China, the largest owner and developer of Class-A real estate in Beijing and Shanghai, was struggling to convince analysts of the merits of their new “build-to-hold” strategy. Founded as a merchant builder, the company went public in 2007 raising a record USD 1.9 billion, but the firm, led by Zhang Xin, refocused in 2012 towards a “build-to-hold” strategy in an effort to capture the long-term value of their properties. Ms. Zhang also saw an opportunity to capitalize on the rapidly growing “shared office” trend developing their own ‘3Q’ coworking product placing these centers in their newly held buildings. Despite 3Q’s initial success and the “build-to-hold” strategy beginning to bear fruit, SOHO’s stock price was still near record lows. How could Zhang Xin educate the stock market to reward SOHO’s share price and acknowledge the successful transition? Would these strategic decisions be sufficient to steer SOHO China through new economic hurdles? Is 3Q enough to buoy SOHO’s performance and bring them into the next phase of growth?

    Keywords: merchant builder; real estate development; public markets; China; shared office space; Growth and Development Strategy; Property; Construction; Stocks; Financial Markets; Marketing Strategy; Real Estate Industry; Construction Industry; China;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Alexander W. Schultz. "SOHO China: Transformation in Progress." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 217-034, January 2017.  View Details
  4. Real Estate in China: A Technical Note for SOHO China

    Charles F. Wu

    A technical note on the state of Chinese commercial real estate and the effects of China's slowing growth. This note was written in conjunction with the case study "SOHO China: Transformation in Progress."

    Keywords: China; real estate; Commercial Real Estate; Beijing; Shanghai; REIT; gdp; Economic Growth; Real Estate Industry; Shanghai; Beijing;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F. "Real Estate in China: A Technical Note for SOHO China." Harvard Business School Technical Note 217-029, September 2016. (Revised February 2017.)  View Details
  5. SOHO China: Transformation in Progress

    Charles F. Wu

    In 2016, against the backdrop of a challenging Chinese macroeconomic environment, SOHO China, the largest owner and developer of Class-A real estate in Beijing and Shanghai, was struggling to convince analysts of the merits of its new “build-to-hold” strategy. Founded as a merchant builder, the company went public in 2007, raising a record US$1.9 billion, but the firm, led by Zhang Xin, refocused in 2012 on a “build-to-hold” strategy in an effort to capture the long-term value of its properties. Zhang also saw an opportunity to capitalize on the rapidly growing shared-office trend, developing the company’s own 3Q coworking product and placing these centers in its newly held buildings. Despite 3Q’s initial success and with the “build-to-hold” strategy beginning to bear fruit, SOHO’s stock price was still near record lows. How could Zhang Xin educate the stock market to reward SOHO’s share price and acknowledge the successful transition? Would these strategic decisions be sufficient to steer SOHO China through new economic hurdles? Is 3Q enough to buoy SOHO’s performance and bring it into the next phase of growth?

    Keywords: China; REIT; real estate; shared office; coworking; public company; NAV; Macroeconomics; Going Public; Transition; Growth and Development Strategy; Real Estate Industry; China;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F. "SOHO China: Transformation in Progress." Harvard Business School Case 217-023, September 2016. (Revised January 2017.)  View Details
  6. Songy 2011: Restructuring to Survive (Or, Surviving to Restructure?)

    Charles F. Wu and Alexander W. Schultz

    In 2011, Songy Partners, an Atlanta based real estate developer, was facing three distressed investments within their portfolio each with distinct sets of challenges. Having weathered a myriad of issues during the Global Financial Crisis which included operational shortfalls, failed partnerships, bankruptcies, lender consolidations, lagging tenant demand, low investment liquidity, and pending loan maturities, Songy needed a path forward for these three assets. Songy’s lenders were threatening to foreclose on all three properties and also call on corporate guarantees. The case addresses Songy’s decisions leading up to and during the crisis. Which of the firm’s challenges might have been avoidable, did the company have any leverage with its creditors, what tactics might the company employ to save its properties? Within this context, what are Songy’s responsibilities to his investors?

    Keywords: distressed debt; real estate; limited partners; valuation; cap rates; Partners and Partnerships; Valuation; Investment; Property; Borrowing and Debt; Real Estate Industry; Atlanta;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Alexander W. Schultz. "Songy 2011: Restructuring to Survive (Or, Surviving to Restructure?)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 217-014, August 2016.  View Details
  7. Songy 2011: Restructuring to Survive (or, Surviving to Restructure?)

    Charles F. Wu

    In 2011, Songy Partners, an Atlanta-based real estate developer, was facing three distressed investments within their portfolio each with distinct sets of challenges. Having weathered a myriad of issues during the global financial crisis that included operational shortfalls, failed partnerships, bankruptcies, lender consolidations, lagging tenant demand, low investment liquidity, and pending loan maturities, Songy needed a path forward for these three assets. Songy's lenders were threatening to foreclose on all three properties and also call on corporate guarantees. The case addresses Songy's decisions leading up to and during the crisis. Which of the firm's challenges might have been avoidable? Did the company have any leverage with its creditors? What tactics might the company employ to save its properties? Within this context, what are Songy's responsibilities to his investors?

    Keywords: real estate; distressed debt; Global Financial Crisis; valuation; foreclosure; partnership; Partners and Partnerships; Valuation; Global Range; Insolvency and Bankruptcy; Property; Financial Crisis; Real Estate Industry; Atlanta;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F. "Songy 2011: Restructuring to Survive (or, Surviving to Restructure?)." Harvard Business School Case 217-012, August 2016. (Revised February 2017.)  View Details
  8. To Buy or What to Buy: Your First Home

    Charles F. Wu and Daniel Woodbury

    This is the teaching note to the case "To Buy or What to Buy: Your First Home."

    Keywords: real estate; Property; Housing; Real Estate Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Daniel Woodbury. "To Buy or What to Buy: Your First Home." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 216-011, August 2015. (Revised January 2016.)  View Details
  9. To Buy or What to Buy: Your First Home

    Charles F. Wu, Steven Hirsch, Beatrice Liem, Kevin Ryan and Derrick Snyder

    Peter and Kate Rose are a young couple looking to buy their first home in the Boston area. They have narrowed down a target list to three homes, but are also considering whether it makes sense to buy a home in the first place. They must make decisions regarding which home to buy, a price, a broker, a mortgage package, and how to source a down payment. Both quantitative and qualitative factors are considered in their decision making.

    Keywords: real estate; real assets; Housing; Investing; personal investing; brokerage; Housing; Property; Private Ownership; Investment; Real Estate Industry; United States; Boston; New England; Massachusetts; North America;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., Steven Hirsch, Beatrice Liem, Kevin Ryan, and Derrick Snyder. "To Buy or What to Buy: Your First Home." Harvard Business School Case 215-080, June 2015. (Revised January 2016.)  View Details
  10. Making Room for the Baby Boom: Senior Living

    Charles F. Wu and Ben Eppler

    Tom Alperin's firm National Development is an experienced multifamily and commercial developer in the Northeast. It has a strong track record for working on challenging projects, delivering high quality products and generating strong returns for his investors. The firm purchased a well-located, heavily trafficked site in the wealthy suburb of Wellesley, Massachusetts. The highly visible site has a tarnished history as a result of the previous owners' attempts to force a 68,000 sf retail project upon the town.

    The team believes that the town of Wellesley would be more accepting to development if the project could help address the senior living needs of the aging resident population as well as satisfy some of the mandated state requirements for affordable housing.

    They are trying to decide whether to build apartments, their demonstrated expertise, a combination of independent living and assisted living, areas in which they have some experience, or perhaps consider higher acuity facilities.

    Keywords: Housing; Age; Investment Return; Construction Industry; Real Estate Industry; Massachusetts;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Ben Eppler. "Making Room for the Baby Boom: Senior Living." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 215-029, October 2014.  View Details
  11. Overview of Senior Housing in the United States

    Charles F. Wu and Joseph Beyer

    This technical note provides an overview of the senior housing industry in the United States. There were 40 million seniors in America in 2010, and that number was expected to double by 2050. Seniors would make up 1 in every five Americans. This note explores the living options available to this important and fast-growing demographic.

    Keywords: real estate; Senior Living; finance; retirement homes; Development; Property; Finance; Entrepreneurship; Real Estate Industry; Massachusetts; United States;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Joseph Beyer. "Overview of Senior Housing in the United States." Harvard Business School Technical Note 215-005, August 2014. (Revised August 2015.)  View Details
  12. Making Room for the Baby Boom: Senior Living

    Charles F. Wu, Joseph Beyer and Arthur I. Segel

    Tom Alperin's National Development has purchased a building site in affluent Wellesley, MA, and is in the process of deciding whether to build apartments, a combination of independent living and assisted living units for seniors, or perhaps even higher acuity facilities.

    The case describes several issues for the continuum of senior care alternatives for residents and developers. What motivates seniors to leave their homesteads for much smaller spaces? How can they afford to do so? What are the physical as well as operational challenges for operators when serving the different levels of acuity?

    The case also describes what zoning issues may be faced by developers who seek to build in attractive but challenging neighborhoods. Furthermore, how can a successful operator branch out into new businesses? When should the operator form joint ventures to help them achieve their strategic ends?

    Analytical tools discussed include: development metrics, impact of financing on projects, as well as analytical methods to forecast market demand.

    Keywords: Senior Living; Assisted Living; Independent Living; Property; Finance; Real Estate Industry; Boston; Massachusetts; United States;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Joseph Beyer. "Making Room for the Baby Boom: Senior Living." Harvard Business School Case 215-003, July 2014. (Revised May 2015.)  View Details
  13. Technical Note on Financial Leverage in Real Estate

    Charles F. Wu and Arthur I Segel

    Demonstrates the accelerating impact of leverage on returns under differing scenarios of property performance. The performance scenarios represent two points in time: the inception of the investment and the liquidation.

    Keywords: Property; Investment; Real Estate Industry;

    Citation:

    Wu, Charles F., and Arthur I Segel. "Technical Note on Financial Leverage in Real Estate." Harvard Business School Technical Note 208-041, August 2007. (Revised April 2012.)  View Details