German expansion

King & Spalding, the 800-strong international law firm, is following its clients by opening an office in Frankfurt.

Opening an office in Europe in the current real estate investment environment would give anyone pause for thought. Against this backdrop, international law firm King & Spalding is opening an office in Frankfurt, it's foray into Germany. Scott Arnold, the New York-based cohead of real estate capital markets, admits he thought twice about the commitment over the summer. But in the end, he says, he thought that the current climate would present more opportunities to private equity real estate clients than hindrances.

“We have been considering opening in Germany for a long time,” Arnold said. “In the US, we have had significant real estate work, particularly in real estate private equity. A lot of funds are very interested in expansion into Europe and Asia. Of course, we want to follow our clients.”

King & Spalding, which operates five offices in the US, one in Dubai and one in the UK, has hired two partners to join the Frankfurt operation. Mario Leissner, until now the general counsel and head of legal and tax at IVG-owned Oppenheim Immobilien-Kapitalanlagegesellschaft (OIK), is a specialist in fund structuring, regulatory law, real estate, corporate transactions and financing work. He has represented real estate investment firm OIK in the US as it expands in the country. Michael Prinz zu Löwenstein, the second hire, was until now a partner with Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek in Frankfurt and has been active in general corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, structured finance and real estate for more than 20 years.

Arnold, together with William Fryer, the other head of real estate capital markets, will divide his time between New York and Frankfurt. Wilfried Witthuhn and senior associate Sebastian Kaufmann round out the team in the new office. The firm will advise clients on European real estate investments made by or on behalf of funds or funds of funds, which span multiple jurisdictions, involving joint ventures, portfolio transfers and the formation of European fund investment vehicles.

“Our lawyers have been handling real estate matters for German-based clients for 30 years,” Robert Hays, chairman of King & Spalding, said in a release. “With the tremendous surge of activity in the high-end commercial property market in Europe brought on by extensive migration of property stock into international investment vehicles, we believe the timing is right to have a significant presence in Germany.” Clients waiting for an invite to a Frankfurt reception will have to wait a little longer, however. The firm was still in the throes of signing a new lease on a Frankfurt property at the time of going to press and preferred not to reveal the location.

Meyer Bergman adds principal
Meyer Bergman, the London-based, pan-European developer that has re-launched as a private equity real estate manager, has hired Arnold de Haan as a principal and vice chairman. De Haan stepped down as chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley-owned Multi Corporation in May. He joins Meyer Bergman, which has changed its name from MAB, as the firm is on the fundraising trail for its maiden pan-European property vehicle. Markus Meijer, chief executive officer and son of MAB founder Ton Meijer, is leading the effort, though Ton Meijer remains the chairman of the firm. Prior to Multi, de Haan was managing director of Germany's Commerz Grundbesitz Group. It is believed that Meyer Bergman's new fund is looking to raise €750 million ($1 billion) of equity.

RREEF UK head leaves
Bill Hughes has parted company with RREEF as head of UK business as the restructuring of RREEF's European operation continues. According to market participants, Hughes left the firm on August 30 after it became clear his role was no longer required under a new regime designed to create a “one-stop shop” in Europe led by duo Pierre Cherki and Chris Papachristophorou. RREEF decline to comment on the latest personnel change at RREEF, which follows the departure of Daniel Rigny, co-head of opportunity funds in Europe, who quit in June. Rigny's departure was preceded by the announcement that David Brush, the former European head of RREEF Real Estate and the global head of the firm's opportunity fund business, is set to retire next year.

Choo joins Dechert's London office
International law firm Dechert has hired Steven Choo as partner in its finance and real estate practice based in London. The former Clifford Chance lawyer specializes in complex and high-value real estate finance transactions. He joins at a time of major expansion at Dechert, with five associates having been recruited to join the group within the last two months. Many major law firms appear to be gearing up in the midst of the credit crunch: Salans has recently appointed Keith Handley as senior member of the global real estate group serving private equity clients among others, while construction lending and co-lending expert Marcell Clark has joined the same team. Steven Nagy has also joined the mergers and acquisitions team.

AXA hires Standard investment director
AXA Real Estate Investment Managers has hired Martin McGuire as fund manager for its European property team. McGuire is managing the European Added Value Fund, which was launched in April last year and held a close on €422 million ($589 million). Prior to joining AXA REIM, McGuire was investment director at Standard Life Investments where he was responsible for property portfolios in Europe and the UK. “AXA REIM views Europe as a significant area of future growth and Martin's appointment maintains our strong position to continue to deliver performance and underline our commitment to the region and to our investors,” Christian Delaire, global head of fund management at AXA REIM, said in a statement.