KKR hires ex-Goldman exec to drive European RE efforts

The first 90 days of Guillaume Cassou’s tenure as a director in the newly-formed real estate division of the New York-based buy-out titan will be to identify small pools of long-term strategic business partners and advisors.

New York-based buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co has made further inroads into establishing a long-term, dedicated real estate platform with the hire of an executive charged with leading its European efforts.

A year after hiring ex-Goldman Sachs senior executive Ralph Rosenberg to build its first dedicated real estate platform, PERE has learned Guillaume Cassou has been hired as a director mandated to help the firm map out its European presence.

After a Goldman Sachs career spanning 11 years, he stepped down as an executive director in February and will be joining KKR in May. Further real estate hires to bolster Cassou’s efforts are also expected to materialise in the coming months.

KKR, which manages more than $59 billion of assets, is building out its real estate platform in methodical fashion. Sources said Cassou – who like Rosenberg has worked for Goldman Sachs’s Real Estate Principal Investments – had been mandated to spend the first 90 days in the role establishing a limited roster of suitable partners and advisors across the European real estate market.

In a similar ethos to a number of large institutional investors which have recently declared a desire to work with a small number of selected investment managers, KKR wants its real estate division to take the same approach. As a result, Cassou and his incoming colleagues will consider and select small pools of preferred partners ranging from operating partners and developers to law firms and property agents with which KKR will work with as it starts to put its capital to work.

With Rosenberg’s hire, a core team of six professionals have been appointed in New York. Following The European hires, further appointments are expected to materialise in Hong Kong to aid its plans in Asia.

KKR’s real estate investment activities have been selective since establishing a dedicated division. For example, it supplemented another New York firm, Westbrook Partners, in its bid for a £1.4 billion (€1.7 billion; $2.15 billion) loan book sold by the UK’s Royal Bank of Scotland. While their bid was ultimately beaten by a bid from The Blackstone Group, KKR is nonetheless understood to be actively pursuing other structured investments with European banks.

In Asia, the firm has put dedicated real estate capital to work in the form of a development fund with Sino-Ocean Land, one of Beijing’s largest real estate companies, called Sino Prosperity Real Estate Fund. Both parties have injected $75 million of equity into the fund and PERE understands that a further $75 million was raised from third-party institutional investors for the five-year vehicle.

KKR declined to comment when approached.