LaSalle hires ex-Lehman Asia co-head

Mark Gabbay has been appointed Asia Pacific chief investment officer after the firm spent one year searching for an addition to the existing senior team. He will report to Asia Pacific CEO Jack Chandler.

LaSalle Investment Management has hired former Lehman Brothers’ real estate executive Mark Gabbay as chief investment officer of its Asia Pacific operations.

Reporting to Asia Pacific chief executive officer Jack Chandler, Gabbay spent the past two years with Japanes financial services firm Nomura after almost a decade with Lehman Brothers, including as managing director and co-head of Lehman’s real estate group in Asia Pacific. Based in Hong Kong, Gabbay will work alongside LaSalle Asia opportunity fund president Ian Mackie targeting new deals in the region.

Chicago-based LaSalle has been searching for a regional chief investment officer for the past two years, with global chief executive officer Jeff Jacobson – who relocated to Singapore in January – acting as interim Asia Pacific CIO.

The [Asia Pacific] region has been a huge growth area for us and we see a lot of growth going forward.

LaSalle Investment Management Asia Pacific chief executive officer Jack Chandler

With around $8 billion of assets under management currently invested in Asia Pacific real estate markets, Chandler said in an interview LaSalle expected that figure to increase to around $12 billion over the next few years. “The region has been a huge growth area for us and we see a lot of growth going forward,” he said.

During 2009, Chandler said LaSalle closed just one deal owing to large bid-ask spreads. However in 2010, the firm had made “half dozen new investments”, particularly structured debt deals. “The transactions we are seeing are very much lender-driven,” Chandler added. “It’s the path to get control of the real estate.”

In Western Europe, LaSalle has been targeting core real estate investments, not least after winning the property mandate of the UK’s Royal Mail Pension Plan (RMPP), worth around £1.6 billion (Euro: 1.7 billion), and amid growing investor calls for lower-risk investments. In April, LaSalle’s head of Europe, Simon Marrison, said in a statement there was a “clear trend of core capital looking at greater Europe as a single region, focusing on the big three markets of the UK, France and Germany”.

Chandler added although investor appetite for core real estate deals in Europe and the US had increased, there were opportunistic transactions to be had. “It’s the time for careful assessment and caution in terms of picking which markets you invest in.”

In the US, particularly, the real estate markets had “bifurcated” into two transaction segments – one containing high-quality, well-leased properties in a handful of markets versus “pretty much the rest of the country,” Chandler said. “But the US is a very big country and you can find some really good stock in markets we’ve always liked [although not experiencing bidding wars] at really good prices.”