JER raids GE to expand European presence

The McLean, Virginia-based firm has swooped on GE veteran Karim Habra as well as Christopher Zeuner and Petr Kosar to boost activities in Central and Eastern Europe.

JER Partners has hired a team in Prague to expand its operations in Europe.

JER, which under former GE Real Estate head Michael Pralle is growing its business around the world, has hired Karim Habra, Christopher Zeuner and Petr Kosar to establish a platform in Central and Eastern Europe.

Habra, Zeuner and Kosar are all joining from Pralle’s former firm where they were responsible for growing GE’s real estate operations in the region. According to a statement, Habra will join as managing director Central and Eastern Europe, while Zeuner will become director and Kosar vice president. They are expected to begin working at JER early this fall. Together they will be responsible for growing the Central and Eastern European business and working with commercial real estate partners and investors in the CEE region, in particular the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Turkey.

Pralle said in a statement that the trio were “seasoned executives” with “successful track records, and a vast network of contacts across Central and Eastern Europe.” The president and COO of J.E. Robert Companies added: “I had the opportunity to work with them while at GE Real Estate. Their leadership abilities, combined with their local knowledge and expertise will be critical as we continue to expand our investment activities in Europe.”

Malcolm Le May, president, Europe at JER Partners, added: “This is a dynamic and pivotal time in JER’s history. We are in the midst of a significant period of accelerated growth with an expanded reach and greater diversity of investment vehicles.”

Habra moved to Prague in 2001 to grow GE’s business and built the team in Central and Eastern Europe which transacted 80 retail, office, industrial and residential projects, for a total of $3 billion (€2 billion), and 4 non-performing loan portfolios.  
Prior to leading the operations in Central and Eastern Europe, he was based in GE ‘s European headquarters in Paris, where he was involved in transactions across France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Zeuner joined GE in 2004 and has been involved in more than $2 billion of transactions. Most recently, he led the origination and business development team in Central and Eastern Europe, and expanded the operations to include Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Earlier in his career, Zeuner was head of Cushman & Wakefield’s capital markets team in Poland. Kosar joined GE Capital in 2002 and GE Real Estate in 2004, based in Prague. He managed ten transactions with a value in excess of $750 million.