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All change at Goldman Sachs' REPIA

Edward Siskind becomes the sole head of global real estate principal investments as co-head Todd Williams prepares to leave this year. Brahm Cramer and Jonathan Langer are also leaving REPIA to “to pursue other opportunities”, according to an internal memo.

Goldman Sachs has announced major personnel changes in its global real estate principal investment area (REPIA), which houses the Whitehall series of opportunity funds.

Staff were told yesterday via an internal memo signed by Richard Friedman, who heads the merchant-banking division, that Edward Siskind will become the sole head of REPIA. Siskind, a life-long Goldman Sachs staffer, is taking charge as co-head Todd Williams prepares to leave the business later this year.

The internal memo – the contents of which has been reported on Bloomberg – also said Brahm Cramer and Jonathan Langer were leaving REPIA to pursue other opportunities.

Richard Powers, an employee since 1999, has moved to New York from London to run Goldman Sachs' US real estate investment activities with Alan Kava. Jean de Pourtales is relocating to London from Singapore to lead investing in Europe with James Garman.

In Asia, the activities of REPIA recently merged with the region’s special situations group.

Siskind will continue to be based in London where has been since 1999. The new role marks the culmination of years of service to Goldman Sachs’ real estate business. He joined the firm in 1988 and went onto to co-found the Real Estate Principal Investment Group in 1992 around the same time as the Whitehall Funds were first established. In 2005, Siskind became head of Goldman Sachs’ overall real estate activities in Europe. Then last year he became co-head of the global REPIA business when Stuart Rothenberg left the firm after 21 years.

As The Wall Street Journal reported in May, Goldman Sachs’ Whitehall platform was hit hard in 2008 with the equity on some investments being entirely wiped out.

Whitehall's biggest vehicle, the $4.1 billion Whitehall Street Global Real Estate 2007 fund, saw enormous write downs in 2008, after the bulk of the capital was invested at the height of the market in 2007. In 2008, the bank's real estate arm wrote down $2.1 billion of the $3.7 billion of capital it invested between May 2007 and August 2008.

According to those with knowledge of the firm, Goldman Sachs has cut all but the most senior executives in its Whitehall Funds platform in Europe. Many former Whitehall Funds professionals have been seeking employment with some of Goldman Sachs’ rivals.

Despite its challenges, PERE magazine names Goldman Sachs this month as a firm that is set to thrive through the current cycle by acquiring large real estate-related investments – with the firm’s special situations group well positioned.

In the internal memo sent yesterday, the firm says the merchant-banking division has more than $6 billion of capital available for investing in real estate globally.