Heitman heads west

The Chicago-based real estate firm has added a point man in its Los Angeles office to focus on acquisitions in the western US.

Heitman may be about to raise its profile on the West Coast. The Chicago-based real estate investment management firm recently installed a new vice president of acquisitions for its private equity group in its Los Angeles office with an eye towards expanding the firm's on-the-ground presence in the City of Angels.

Marc Venegas, who comes to Heitman from his position as vice president of fund investment management in the LA office of JE Robert Companies, will lead the firm's efforts in originating, negotiating and closing equity investment across sectors throughout the western United States.

“We've been active there and will continue to be active,” says James Bachner, Heitman's senior acquisitions officer. “But we do a lot of it through joint ventures which is why we're a little less visible out there. So, we will probably do more on a direct investment basis as well as continue to invest through our joint venture partners.”

Bachner says Venegas' background at JE Roberts, where he handled $1.5 billion (€1.2 billion) in transactions for its private equity real estate fund, JER Partners, and its publicly-traded REIT, JER Investors Trust, as well as a broad knowledge base made him a good fit for Heitman. “He has the experience and relationships in both the acquisition of assets and formation of joint ventures,” Bachner said, citing markets including Northern and Southern California, Colorado, Seattle, and Portland.

“Historically we have done all our acquisitions out of Chicago, but we have a number of new initiatives,” he added. “We just felt it was time to expand our reach and get a little deeper exposure to the West Coast markets.”

Among the new initiatives are Heitman's second value-added fund, which the firm expects to start investing sometime around the first quarter of 2007, and an open-ended core fund, according to Bachner. Heitman, which manages $8.8 billion in private equity real estate assets in the US and Europe, closed Heitman Value Partners, its first value-added fund, in 2004 on $400 million.

Before JE Roberts, Venegas was a senior financial analyst in the acquisitions division at NHP Incorporated, a publicly traded multi-family owner/operator based in Washington DC. He also holds an undergraduate degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.