“I grew up in South Boston and I’m very familiar with the waterfront,” said Jim Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Back then, “it was not a nice place. The Johnsons and Fidelity were pioneers in seeing, before anyone else, a new development horizon for the city.”

Japan, Germany
Pembroke’s portfolio encompasses 8.6 million square feet, mostly offices, in 14 cities across eight countries. Its holdings grew substantially after some of them were reported in a March 2010 bond prospectus for FMR, with a carrying value of $1.6 billion.

Since then, new properties have been added in Australia, Japan, Germany and the U.S. West Coast, and the portfolio is now worth an estimated $5.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The appreciation of long-held properties will help cushion the blow that the pandemic inflicted on commercial real estate. Transactions, development and inquiries from prospective tenants have plunged. In March, the Seaport Hotel furloughed 400 workers. It offered rooms free to medical workers caring for Covid patients.

The health crisis has inflicted pain elsewhere in the Johnson portfolio. In West Texas, family-owned shale company Discovery Natural Resources dismissed workers amid anemic oil demand.

Other assets are less exposed to pandemic fallout. The family has stakes in more than 190 companies through Cambridge, Massachusetts-based F-Prime Inc., a venture capital firm with $2 billion in committed tech and health-care investments.

It was an early backer of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and has invested in Checkmate Pharmaceuticals Inc., a maker of cancer treatments that filed to go public last month. F-Prime has invested in almost three dozen Boston-area health or biotech companies.

While Fidelity is known for mutual funds, it sits atop the food chain of the venture capital community in Boston because of the amount of money at its command, said Bonnanzio, the newsletter editor.

“Are the best ideas on Fidelity’s radar?” he said. “It’s almost impossible that they’re not.”

Eight Roads
Most of these private equity-type investments were housed under FMR’s corporate umbrella until 2018, when a restructuring aimed at simplifying the firm’s financial statements resulted in the investments being spun out, according to a report by S&P Global Ratings.

A similar thing happened last year at Fidelity International, where a division called Eight Roads, which invested in real estate and private companies, was hived off into its own business.