Former ESR executives to launch Asia real estate business

The team has left the Hong Kong-based firm following its merger with ARA to join ICG Real Estate, the property arm of the London-based manager.

ICG Real Estate, the property division of London-based manager Intermediate Capital Group, has hired a four-person team from ESR to launch its Asia real estate business, PERE has learned.

The executives were part of ARA Private Funds, the Hong Kong-based manager’s private real estate funds division, focusing on opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. They include the group’s chief executive David Kim, based in Singapore and part of ESR’s business leadership team; head of value-add and opportunistic real estate Stephen Tang, based in Singapore; Rohan Neville, head of investments and asset management of ARA Australia, based in Melbourne; and Isaac Leo, manager of APAC real estate investments, based in Singapore.

The new business will be led by Kim and Tang as co-heads of ICG Real Estate, Asia. The team, which is expected to join the firm at the end of the month, will report to global head of real estate Krysto Nikolic. The business will oversee all real estate equity and debt activities in the region and be aligned with ICG Real Estate’s broader opportunistic strategy, focusing on mid-to-upper-market transactions, corporate-led deals and special situations involving dislocation and more operationally-intensive investments.

ICG Real Estate declined to comment, but PERE understands the firm intends to build a large-scale business in Asia with a multi-billion-dollar presence in the region. To that end, it is eyeing the launch of a dedicated Asian real estate fund in 2023.

The ESR team lift-out comes three months after ESR, a logistics-focused firm with $39 billion of assets under management, completed its merger with ARA, a Singapore-based real assets manager with $101 billion of assets managed. The transaction created the largest real assets manager in the APAC region and the third-largest listed real estate manager globally with over $140 billion of assets under management. ESR declined to comment, but PERE understands that the firm intends to unveil plans – which have been in the works for a number of months – for ARA Private Funds in the coming weeks.

Prior to his nine-year career at ARA, Kim was managing director and chief operating officer of Blackstone’s Asia real estate business, where he was responsible for portfolio management. From 2000 to 2010, he held the same roles in the real estate principal investments group in Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he oversaw the launch and establishment of the group’s $2.65 billion pan-Asian opportunity fund. Tang joined ARA in 2017 and served as the lead fund manager for ARA’s Asia Real Estate Partners Asia value-add fund series. Prior to that, he was a managing director in JPMorgan Asset Management’s global real assets group.

The four professionals are the latest recruits to ICG Real Estate and closely follow Nikolic’s joining of the firm in January. Nikolic was head of European real estate at Miami Beach-based private investment firm Starwood Capital Group for nearly four years. Other hires include the additions of Adam Golebiowski and Luca Lelli as managing director and principal, respectively, to the European private equity real estate team in March 2021. Both previously worked at Boston-based hedge fund The Baupost Group.

ICG’s real estate division currently manages more than $7 billion of assets in private debt and private equity investments in the sector. In addition to its opportunistic equity strategy, the division also targets senior debt; partnership capital, including whole loans, mezzanine, and preferred equity; residential development finance; and sale and leaseback transactions. ICG, meanwhile, has $69 billion of assets under management across four asset classes: structured and private equity, private debt, real assets and credit.