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John Sullivan

John L. Sullivan


Chair, US Real Estate Practice
Co-Chair, US Real Estate Sector
Co-Chair, Global Real Estate Sector

Probably the best legal mind I have ever been around, with an unbelievable depth of knowledge on all matters real estate
client quoted in Chambers USA

John Sullivan has a broad-ranging practice that encompasses all aspects of commercial real estate. His clients include institutional real estate investment advisors, US and non-US pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, real estate investment funds, and family offices.

In particular, John represents public and private pension plans, opportunity funds, investment advisors and non-US investors in equity, debt, hybrid and joint venture transactions throughout North America. He is very familiar with UBTI, VCOC and REOC issues faced by tax exempt and benefit plan investors and with the tax and regulatory issues faced by non-US investors.

A significant portion of John's practice involves representing institutional investors in real estate joint ventures, including development and strategic or platform joint ventures. He is recognized as a thought leader with respect to real estate joint ventures, and he is a guest lecturer on that topic at the MIT Real Estate Center and Columbia Business School. He also has substantial experience representing both lenders and borrowers in complex real estate loan workouts and restructurings throughout the US.

In addition to being Chair of the US Real Estate practice and Co-Chair of the Global Real Estate Practice, John is a member of DLA Piper's US Executive Committee and Policy Committee.

Bar admissionsMassachusetts


Examples of John's experience include:

  • Represented a non-US investor in the US$3.6 billion acquisition of a privately-held REIT owning approximately 180 industrial properties in 15 states and a related management and development platform
  • Represented a non-US investor with respect to the acquisition, joint venture and financing of a newly constructed headquarters building in New York City with a project cost of approximately US$2.1 billion 
  • Represented a non-US investor in the US$2.1 billion acquisition of a portfolio of office buildings and a related joint venture
  • Represented a non-US investor in the acquisition and joint venture of a trophy office building in New York City valued in excess of US$1.2 billion in a highly structured transaction involving entities and investors from multiple countries 
  • Represented a fund sponsor in the roll-up of multiple real estate investment funds owning approximately 53 apartment properties located throughout the US 
  • Represented an institutional investment advisor in the formation of a joint venture with a public REIT to acquire a US$326 million portfolio of student housing properties in conjunction with the closing of a US$1.2 billion merger of two public REITs 
  • Represented a non-US pension fund in a programmatic joint venture for the acquisition, financing, and development of apartment projects throughout the US 
  • Represented a US real estate investment advisor in the acquisition and joint venture for an office tower valued in excess of US$500 million 
  • Represented a non-US institutional investor in the acquisition of a privately-held REIT that owned more than 100 farms in six states 
  • Represented an institutional investor in the sale of six REITS owning apartment projects in five states 
  • Represented a real estate private equity fund in a US$220 million investment in a portfolio of assets that included 44 office and industrial properties, a 351-mile railroad easement and six parcels of undeveloped land. The fund's investment was divided into a US$70 million mezzanine loan and a US$150 million unsecured loan and closed simultaneously with a US$835 million recapitalization 
  • Represented a non-US investor in the phased acquisition of equity interests in a venture that owns a portfolio of eight regional retail malls in the US with a gross value in excess of US$500 million. The transaction also included the acquisition of a US$26 million unsecured loan to the joint venture. All of the parties were non-US entities and the transaction involved many complex tax, debt and restructuring issues 
  • Represented a non-US investor in the US$276 million acquisition of a leasehold condominium in New York City containing residential and retail space, including the simultaneous closing of a US$110 million senior loan and a US$70 million mezzanine loan 
  • Represented a real estate opportunity fund in the formation of a joint venture to acquire and develop skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in the Southeastern United States 
  • Represented a real estate opportunity fund with respect to a mezzanine loan and joint venture investment in the development of a condominium and apartment project in New Jersey
  • Represented an institutional investment advisor in the acquisition of a US$139.5 million shopping center in Hawaii 
  • Represented real estate funds and real estate advisors with respect to the acquisition of office, retail, residential, hotel, industrial and multi-family projects located throughout the US 
  • Represented institutional real estate advisors with respect to participating and non-participating mezzanine loans involving projects throughout the US 
  • Represented various institutional investors in workouts and restructurings throughout the US 
  • Represented opportunity funds in the acquisition, financing, and sale of portfolios of performing and non-performing loans
  • J.D., Cornell Law School, 1983, cum laude
    Editor in Chief, Cornell International Law Journal
  • B.A., College of the Holy Cross, 1980, summa cum laude


Chambers USA

  • Band 1, Massachusetts Real Estate (2012-2024) 

The Legal 500 United States

  • Leading Lawyer, Real Estate (2017-2019, 2022-2024)
  • Recommended, Real Estate (2015-2016, 2020)
Additional Awards
  • Named Best Lawyers "Lawyer of the Year" (2014)
  • Named among the Lawdragon 500 Dealmakers in America (2007)
  • Named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer
Clients say:
  • "John Sullivan is far and away the greatest real estate lawyer I have ever worked with. Importantly, he is as great a person as he is partner to his clients." (Chambers 2023)
  • "John Sullivan is the best corporate real estate lawyer, globally, that I have worked with, bar none." (Chambers 2023)
  • "He's a very good lawyer. He's very smart, very careful and provides very well-thought-out advice." (Chambers 2023)
  • "Top of the heap. Really exemplary service – you always get his attention, he’s a skilled and effective technical lawyer as well as negotiator." (Legal 500 2023)



John is a frequent speaker on topics such as joint venture agreements, cross-border real estate investments, and matters relating to investments in real estate by pension plans and other tax exempt investors.

  • Speaker, "John Sullivan on Wharton Business Daily," Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM
  • Speaker, "A Look at The Commercial Real Estate Space," Nasdaq Trade Talks
  • Moderator, "Short-Term Financing Options for Real Estate Funds," IMN's annual Real Estate Opportunity Fund Conference
  • Moderator, "Crossing the Line: Issues to Consider in Cross Border Transactions," 2019 American College of Real Estate Lawyers Annual Meeting
  • Moderator, "Beginning with the End in Mind: Exit Mechanisms in Joint Venture Agreements," 2017 American College of Real Estate Lawyers Annual Meeting

Media Mentions

Prior Experience

John was previously a director at one of the country's leading real estate investment advisory firms, where he was responsible for acquisitions, sales, financing and workouts and restructurings. John's combination of business and legal experience is highly valued by his clients.

Teaching Experience

John teaches classes on real estate joint ventures at The MIT Center for Real Estate.

Memberships And Affiliations

  • The Real Estate Round Table, Member
  • Law360's 2020 Real Estate Editorial Advisory Board
  • Advisory Board Member, ULI Boston/New England
  • American College of Real Estate Lawyers
  • Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate
  • Real Estate Finance Association
  • Pension Real Estate Association