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Real estate investor and powerful Trump ally Thomas Barrack announced he will be stepping down as CEO of Colony Capital, the investment firm that he founded in 2011, nine months after stepping into the role.

As part of a $325 million deal announced Thursday, Colony Capital will buy digital infrastructure investment firm Digital Bridge Holdings while Barrack will return to his previous role of executive chairman by 2021.

Thomas Barrack | Courtesy of USC

Digital Bridge Holdings manages $20 billion of cell phone towers, optic fiber networks and data centers across North America. It has partnered with Colony Capital before — on the $4 billion digital infrastructure fund Digital Colony Partners, which closed this May.

Nine months ago, Barrack ousted Richard Saltzman and took over as Colony Capital’s CEO after stock prices fell following Colony’s merger with rival fund management group Northstar. At the time, most analysts believed that Colony Capital had overvalued Northstar.

The latest transition is expected to take between 18 to 24 months, the company announced in a press statement. Marc Ganzi, who co-founded Digital Bridge in 2013, will take over Barrack’s role while the latter will go back to serving as executive chairman.

“Data-driven decisions, shared space utilization, ‘everything-as-a-service,’ new communications networks, and last-mile delivery systems, are examples of new technologies which will disintermediate everything in their paths,” Barrack said in a press statement. “In fact, location, location, location is giving way to connect, connect, connect.”

According to the Financial Times, the move has been viewed with cautious optimism by Capital Colony investors, some of whom said it was an indication of the firm repositioning itself as an investment manager rather than an owner of specialist real estate assets.

“I think one could view this as a signal that soon the real estate assets will be sold,” the person told FT.

Over the years, Barrack has frequently expressed support for President Donald Trump — calling him his friend, giving an impassioned speech in support of the then-presidential candidate at the 2016 Republican National Convention and arranging meetings between Trump and Middle East princes.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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