High-net-worth advisory firm acquires rival Contrarian

BMB Group, founded by Rayo Withenage and Brunei’s Prince Abdul Ali 'Yil-Kabier, has invested an undisclosed sum in Contrarian Capital Partners and its subsidiary Beacon Hospitality Partners SARL. In separate news, former CEO of Irvine Company Michael McKee has joined advisory firm Kennedy Associates as chief executive.

The BMB Group, the Islamic advisory firm which counts the Sultan of Brunei’s family among its clients, has taken over the principal investing business of Contrarian Capital Partners and its real estate advisory subsidiary, Beacon Hospitality Partners SARL.
The firm – founded by former lawyer Rayo Withenage and Prince Abdul Ali 'Yil-Kabier, a son of the Sultan of Brunei’s sister in 2004 – said it wanted to expand its operations into real estate to take advantage of “enormous opportunities … where many existing advisory players have over-shopped assets and underserved clients”.

The acquisition is the first step in a major drive by The BMB Group to invest heavily in real estate around the world.

BMB Group

BMB invested an undisclosed sum in Contrarian and Beacon Hospitality Partners SARL – not affiliated to the New York-based asset management firm Beacon Hospitality Partners – “thereby acquiring one of the real estate industry’s leading advisory firms for Middle Eastern and Asian sovereign investors”, the firm said in a statement.
“The acquisition is the first step in a major drive by The BMB Group to invest heavily in real estate around the world,” the statement added. “It is the first of a series of management companies that The BMB Group intends to purchase over the next few months to increase real estate assets under management.”
Contrarian and Beacon provide advisory services for a number of Middle East and Asia investors, including high-net-worth individuals, royal families and sovereign wealth funds, helping invest $1.6 billion of capital in real estate assets over the past 24 months. Contrarian also helped advise the Taittinger family in relation to its sale of the Société du Louvre/Groupe Taittinger hotel group to Starwood Capital for €2.3 billion in 2005, the statement added.
Beacon Hospitality Partners SARL will now be rebranded BMB Beacon, while Beacon chairman and founder Gary Peters will become executive director and global head of real estate at BMB Group, responsibility for building real estate principal investment and advisory arms.
BMB invested capital in Asia-focused and Washington DC-based private equity firm EMP Global in late 2008. Withanage, a former lawyer with roots in Brunei and New Zealand, last year told Euromoney he came up with the idea of Islamic-focused investment platform, especially between Asia and the Middle East, after meeting Prince Abdul Ali while playing on a polo team together.
In separate but related news, former chief executive officer of the real estate investment firm, Irvine Company, has taken over the top job at advisory firm, Kennedy Associates. McKee has served as an independent director on Kennedy’s advisory board for the past two years, after retiring from Irvine in 2008.

Kennedy joined forces with Canadian real estate advisor in 2006, with both firms one-third owned by the $74.5 billion British Columbia public pension bcIMC and the $131.6 billion Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec