When it comes to commercial real estate, Patricia Goldstein is a pioneer.

The 52-year-old division executive of Citicorp Real Estate has steered her bank's transformation from troubled construction lender to capital markets powerhouse. In fact, she helped lay the groundwork for what is now a booming market in the United States for securities backed by commercial mortgages.

"She's always pushing the envelope to what the banks should offer clients," said William McCahill, a managing director in Fleet Financial Group's commercial real estate finance unit. "Her capability and her drive led Citibank into exotic, unconventional products for commercial banks."

Now, Ms. Goldstein is looking to take the bank's success in commercial mortgage-backed securities abroad.

She is putting real estate experts around the world, in such places as France and England, hoping to leverage the capital markets expertise that the bank has established.

"We've owned real estate in those markets, we've been embedded in those markets for 60 years," said Ms. Goldstein, who oversees Citicorp's $2.9 billion corporate banking real estate and other real estate owned exposure. "We see a lot of interest and a lot of financing opportunities."

And she continues to steer Citicorp in the red-hot commercial mortgage- backed securities market domestically, which is now dominated by some of Wall Street's biggest firms.

"We're not trying to be the biggest and we're not taking risks," Ms. Goldstein said. "We're doing a very traditional business."

"There will be institutions ahead of us, but we're not going to be out on the risk curve, and we're not going to use the balance sheet."

Ms. Goldstein and the 200 professionals under her wing know what can happen when a bank takes too many real estate risks. Over the course of her 33-year career, Ms. Goldstein has worn many different hats, including that of loan workout specialist.

She joined Citibank in 1966, in one of the first credit training classes to include women. Though she has explored other paths in banking throughout her career, she always found her way back to real estate.

"I love it," Ms. Goldstein said. "It's very entrepreneurial, the challenge is very tangible. It's like running your own business."

Ms. Goldstein worked out loans for the bank during the real estate investment trust crisis of the 1970s, and after a brief stint in middle- market and consumer lending, left for Olympia & York Cos. USA in 1983.

It was there that she got her first taste for the capital markets. The Toronto-based developer was one of the few real estate companies actively involved in securitization, commercial paper, and swaps.

Swaps, under which Olympia & York traded floating-rate debt for the lowest fixed-rate debt, became an important way for the company to manage interest rate sensitivity on projects. Ms. Goldstein oversaw $1 billion in swaps in 1986 and was nominated for Treasurer of the Year by Euromoney magazine for her work.

In 1988, Ms. Goldstein moved to M.J. Raynes Inc., a real estate sales and marketing firm, where she managed 400 professionals and handled financing and new project development.

By 1990, M.J. Raynes folded amidst a reeling real estate market. It was the perfect time for Ms. Goldstein to rejoin Citicorp and do what she did best: workouts. She returned to the bank to handle all asset management and sales.

Ms. Goldstein had quite a job on her hands: She had to work through the bad assets in Citicorp's $22 billion real estate portfolio. But the task of managing, leasing, and improving the values of the properties was just the kind of challenge that Ms. Goldstein relished.

"I used to tell people I had the best job in the world," Ms. Goldstein said.

"We had the biggest job in ownership and management. We hired a lot of people, we ran the big real estate companies, we brought in bankers, asset managers, and people to work on portfolio sales and we really had a lot of fun."

She began working for Robert McCormack-who was then Citicorp's top negotiator in the Third World debt crisis-to restructure its real estate business.

"Bob and I got together and we knew we had a lot to accomplish," Ms. Goldstein said. "We saw that we had a good opportunity to make money and do a lot more development. We had a vision of where real estate capital markets could go."

The two embarked on a massive restructuring effort, finishing buildings, putting together marketing plans, leasing properties, and raising cash flow, hoping to realize opportunities for financial recovery. With her experience as both a banker and a developer, this came naturally to Ms. Goldstein.

"There's a difference between what a bank knows and what someone who is actually fixing up and leasing up a property knows," Ms. Goldstein said.

Market observers say that Citicorp's distinct approach to managing its problems allowed it to build the successful business it has today. While many other banks sold off as much bad real estate as they could, Citicorp - at Ms. Goldstein's urging - held on.

"She was one of the few that believed that it would come back, and she pushed the bank very hard to hold on to as much as they could," said Jimmy Kune, president of Neumark & Co. "I think that she saved the bank hundreds of millions by keeping that strategy."

Ms. Goldstein hired Mr. Kune in 1991 to negotiate the foreclosure of a 870,000 square-foot office building in New York's Times Square. Citicorp, which had acted as an agent on a $280 million mortgage on the building, ultimately sold it for $119 million-defying critics who had urged Ms. Goldstein to sell much sooner at a much lower price.

The deal was a landmark, because it was the first major office building to be sold since the real estate market fell into recession. It reduced available office space on the West Side of Manhattan by 17%, and spurred new leasing activity in the neighborhood.

Citicorp also launched its commercial mortgage backed operation in 1991- long before any other commercial bank. Last year, it underwrote $2 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities debt, garnering 4.6% of the market and ranking eighth among all underwriters, according to Commercial Mortgage Alert.

Now she is looking abroad. Citicorp securitized over $1 billion in portfolios of international commercial property assets last year. It recently helped Rock Funding PLC issue $1.8 billion French franc-dominated asset-backed floating-rate notes backed by multifamily properties. And it acted as sole arranger on a $250 million five-year floating-rate term loan for BRE/Swiss LLC, an affiliate of Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, for a portfolio of four Swissotels.

And those who know her say more innovation is on its way.

"She is always out front in terms of looking at things, and her approach to real estate is always fresh and different," said Jerry Speyer, president of Tischman Speyer Properties Inc., New York.

"She's one of a kind in banking. She's very smart, she's accumulated a huge amount of knowledge, and has a facility for facing the facts. She always asks the right questions."

Added Joseph Forte, a partner with Thacher, Proffit & Wood, "She's clearly leading the charge there, a knowledgeable lady who knows her mind. She has a good sense of deal and structure and gets the job done."

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