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La Française and Forum buy Cushman & Wakefield Investors

The two firms are buying the property investment management platform of Cushman & Wakefield as they bid to grow a global platform that now has $20 billion AUM.

Cushman & Wakefield Investors (CWI), the European property investment manager, is being taken over by La Française, a $50 billion affiliate of Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe, and its strategic partner, the private equity real estate firm Forum Partners.

The off-market deal will see a team of 8 investment professionals operating out of offices in London, Frankfurt and Paris transfer to La Française Forum Real Estate Partners – the new platform created off the back of La Française and Forum's strategic joint venture announced in September last year.

La Française is acquiring a 66.6 percent stake in CWI while Forum is acquiring a 33.3 percent stake. In a statement, La Française and Forum said that CWI's current chief executive, David Rendall, and Jens Göttler, managing director, together with the current team, would continue to manage the business and investments. All existing service arrangements between Cushman & Wakefield and CWI will be transferred to LFF Real Estate Partners, the pair added.

CWI has $1.2 billion of assets under management, taking the combined La Française and Forum investment management platform to a combined $20 billion of which $14 billion is in core European real estate investments.

Patrick Rivière, managing director of La Française, said CWI was a “natural fit”. He added: “As a real estate investment manager focused predominantly on France, we now possess a demonstrated and recognized pan-European direct real estate expertise. Investors, retail and institutional, will henceforth have access to an enriched investment offer covering real estate assets in the three primary European markets: France, Germany and the UK.”

Russell Platt, chief executive officer of Forum Partners, which has offices in Europe, the US and Asia, added: “We are thrilled to welcome David Rendall, Jens Göttler and their team as senior management of our new direct real estate venture with La Française. Their impeccable credentials, market knowledge and pan-European resources will bring immediate benefits to both firms and accelerate the development of our collaborative efforts.”

This is the first deal since La Française and Forum announced a corporate partnership last year involving the French group owning a 24.9 percent stake in Forum and agreeing to commit more than $600 million of capital across certain strategies, including a European debt vehicle.

Addressing the takeover of CWI, the companies said: “As a result of this acquisition, La Française and Forum Partners can now offer a complete range of bespoke pan-European real estate investment solutions – direct real estate, listed and unlisted real estate investment funds, private and public equity and debt – to retail and institutional investors worldwide.

CWI manages €1.1 billion via direct property in separate accounts on a discretionary and advisory capacity. Among institutional clients such as corporate pension funds, government and local authority plans, charities and family officers, is Korea's Samsung SRA Asset Management which made its first overseas investment via CWI in April 2013 when it acquired the 192,000 square foot 30 Crown Place office block in London. 

As part of its platform, CWI also manages a pooled fund – PURetail – which is a core plus vehicle targeting European urban retail and returns of between 10 and 12 percent.

CWI's parent, Cushman & Wakefield has deemed CWI as a non-core business. Carlo Sant’Albano, chief executive of Cushman & Wakefield, EMEA, said: “With a number of high priority strategic growth initiatives underway at present it is not the right time to invest substantially in building out the CWI platform. In the best interests of the existing CWI client base, we are pleased to have reached an agreement to sell the business to LFF Real Estate Partners which is looking to increase its European exposure and can provide CWI’s clients with access to a larger investment management entity and importantly, continuity of service.”

At the time of La Française's announcement to create a strategic venture with Forum, its president, Xavier Lepine, said: “Through our strategic partnership with Forum we are confident that we can create a global platform that can successfully take on the exciting opportunities in real estate. We look forward to providing clients a complete and original range of real estate products and anticipate Forum will be a significant contributor to our international development.”