Ex-MSREI Asia head Fancy launches niche investment firm

Zain Fancy, the former head of Asia at Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing, has launched Clifton Real Estate Group as he seeks to grow a real estate investment business initially focussed on small- to medium-sized transactions in Singapore.

Zain Fancy, the former head of Asia at Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing (MSREI), has launched his own investment firm with an initial focus on Singapore.

PERE can reveal that earlier this month Fancy launched Clifton Real Estate Group, through which he initially plans to invest capital on a deal by deal basis or via joint ventures with third parties.

Based in Singapore, the firm will focus on residential and commercial assets valued at between $5 million and $100 million, although Fancy said it could partake in investments outside of that range on a selective basis. He added that Clifton already is evaluating between four and five transactions in the city.

In terms of joint venture partners, Fancy said Clifton would invest alongside institutional investors, other high-net-worth individuals or real estate investment funds seeking a local partner through which to allocate capital.

While Clifton presently does not have a set return projection for its future investments, Fancy said the firm would not likely consider investments that yielded below 12 percent per year.  He said: “We are really pricing deals based on risk profile. As such, Clifton does not sit in a specific box.”

Fancy expects to hire between four and five staff by the middle of next year, although the size of the platform depends largely on the firm’s deal-flow. He said: “A lot depends on how quickly our investment pipeline materialises. Having between four and five people by the middle of next year is reasonable. Beyond that, it all depends on our growth.”

The launch of Clifton reflects something of a new chapter for Fancy. Until the end of last October, he worked with New York-based private equity firm Och-Ziff Capital Management through a joint venture called Och-Ziff Asia Real Estate, having joined from MSREI in 2008. Earlier this year, he filed a law suit against Och-Ziff claiming two units of the firm owed him $7.9 million in pay and stock following his unfair dismissal. PERE understands the conflict has since been settled.

Fancy declined to confirm any settlement, but he said: “Och-Ziff and myself have mutually agreed to terminate our joint venture as of October 28, 2010. I am no longer an employee of Och-Ziff as of that date.” Och-Ziff declined to comment when approached.