Former C&W CEO rejoins O’Connor

 Glenn Rufrano has returned to the firm he co-founded 30 years ago, with plans to launch a new real estate fund in the coming year.   

Glenn Rufrano, a 30-year commercial real estate veteran, has rejoined O'Connor Capital Partners, a New York-based real estate investment, development and management firm, as chairman and chief executive. Rufrano, who will assume his new role effective immediately, also has acquired a partnership stake in the firm.

The executive returns to O’Connor after stepping down as head of global property services firm Cushman & Wakefield in June. One of Rufrano’s responsibilities at C&W, which he joined in 2010, was building its property investment management business, Cushman & Wakefield Investors. He was replaced on an interim basis by chairman Carlo Barel di Sant’Albano.

As the new chief executive of O’Connor, Rufrano plans to undergo a strategic review and planning process of the firm over the next three months. “What you always do is focus on what you’re doing today and making sure you’re doing the best you can,” he said in an interview with PERE. “We’ll focus on our retail and multifamily businesses first before we start expanding.”

O’Connor currently is raising capital for both strategies through separate accounts and on a deal-by-deal basis. Rufrano, however, said the firm is planning to begin raising a retail real estate fund in the next year. “We’re going to determine what kind of retail fund we should have and how to market it appropriately,” he said. The vehicle would comprise multiple investors, including O’Connor, and invest in core and core-plus retail assets.  

O’Connor currently manages approximately $3.5 billion of assets, including a retail platform with approximately 14 million square feet of properties in the US and Mexico.  Earlier this year, the firm acquired a 49 percent stake in a portfolio of six malls owned in partnership with the Westfield Group.  

In the residential sector, the firm currently oversees approximately 8,000 multifamily units and has invested $500 million in residential development over the past three years, with 700 units currently under construction.  The firm is slated to open two new multifamily rental projects this month, the 188-unit Maximilian in Long Island City and the 420-unit Atmark in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rufrano co-founded O’Connor Capital’s predecessor firm, The O’Connor Group, with Jerry O’Connor in 1983. Together, the two built the investment management firm, raising capital from public and private pension plans, foundations and endowments through separate accounts and a private retail REIT.

In 1994, O’Connor formed O’Connor Capital, which co-sponsored four private equity real estate funds with JPMorgan Asset Management. The vehicles raised a total of more than $2.5 billion in equity and invested in more than $5 billion of assets in the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Argentina and Japan. In 2002, The O’Connor Group was renamed O’Connor Capital as the firm began sponsoring its own independent opportunistic funds. Those include O’Connor North American Properties, which raised $528 million in 2003; O’Connor North American Property Partners II, with $529 million in commitments; and O’Connor Retail Partners, focused on the retail sector in the US and Mexico.

Rufrano said the firm is not planning to raise a new opportunistic fund in the foreseeable future, primarily because of the difficulty of achieving 18 percent to 20 percent returns in the current real estate environment. He added that the firm will remain focused on retail and multifamily, with retail concentrated in the US and Mexico and multifamily in the US gateway cities. “The goal is to grow not for the sake of growing,” he said. “The goal is to create a profitable business.”

In the 1990s, O’Connor sold its separate account business to JPMorgan and its REIT assets to Simon Property Group. In 2000, Rufrano left O’Connor to become chief executive of New Plan Excel Realty Trust until 2007, which subsequently was sold to Australian-based Centro Properties Group. He served as CEO of Centro until 2010, when he returned to the US to assume the chief executive position at C&W.

That same year, O’Connor, who had served as chairman and chief executive, passed away and, at the request of O’Connor’s family, Rufrano joined the firm’s board. While O’Connor’s son, Bill O’Connor, had helped to run the firm on a day-to-day basis as president and chief operating officer, the company did not hire a new chief executive to replace O’Connor prior to Rufrano returning to the firm. He also replaces Roger Turner, who took over as chairman following O’Connor’s death.