Avignon confirms no changes in CLSA venture after Pattar leaves

Avignon intends to continue a partnership with Hong Kong firm CLSA aimed at introducing Asian capital to European investments despite the departure of its real estate boss John Pattar last month.

See more of our coverage of Pattar’s departure and what it means for CLSA below

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Avignon Capital will continue a venture aimed at investing in European commercial real estate alongside CLSA Capital Partners, the Hong Kong-based investment manager, despite the surprising departure of its real estate boss, John Pattar.

The London-based European property manager formed the partnership in March with the intention of providing access to Asian investors and for CLSA to expand its activities to Europe. Patrick Flaton, the firm’s chief financial and operating officer, said Pattar’s move does not affect the venture. Last month, KKR announced he was leaving CLSA to lead its Asia real estate team. Pattar’s move halted the investing activities of CLSA’s latest Fudo Capital fund raising questions over the series’ future viability in the process, PERE previously reported.

Avignon’s CLSA partnership lays the foundation for future institutional investment products, the property firm said in March.

Flaton remarked on the partnership while discussing its hire of David Kirkby, who joined last month with the mandate to grow Avignon’s separate account business.

David Kirkby: expanding Avignon’s institutional focus

“We have a demonstrated track record of local deals in Europe,” Kirkby added. “We see growth opportunity, as does CLSA, in accessing those European markets that are still seeing good growth and have opportunity ranging from core to value-add.”

Kirkby joined London-based Avignon as director of capital account. He was previously Cromwell Property Group’s chief executive for its European business. Before that, he was chief executive of Blackstone-backed platform Valad Europe, which was acquired by Cromwell Property Group in 2015. In October, Mark McLaughlin took over from Kirkby as managing director of Cromwell’s European business and Kirby became executive director, then left in January.

Avignon focuses on commercial real estate in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and the Nordics. The firm oversees €700 million in assets, with a portfolio of 104 properties across five countries, a spokeswoman said.

Avignon typically spends €50 million-€100 million per deal, investing through separate accounts on behalf of family offices and high-net-worth investors. Kirkby’s mandate focuses on broadening the firm’s relationships with private equity firms and institutional investors, which will likely increase Avignon’s ticket size, said Patrick Flaton, the firm’s chief financial and operating officer.

Kirkby is first focusing on establishing separate accounts with a few investors this year. “That’s the immediate goal in the next 12 months,” he said. “That will be a good segue way to launching a fund and gaining institutional pension fund knowledge.”

In previous roles, Kirkby worked with a host of institutional investors, as well as private equity firms including Cerberus, Blackstone and Angelo Gordon, he said.

“One of the main reasons we asked David to join us is this experience,” Flaton told PERE. “He can help bring Avignon to the next level. If we want to work with institutional clients, we have to understand their needs.”

Avignon does not expect further senior leadership changes, Flaton said.