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Margolis returns to Black Creek

The former head of real assets at Willett Advisors has rejoined his former employer in a new role, focused on expanding the investment platform of its Mexican affiliate MRP Group.

MRP Group, the Mexican affiliate of Denver-based private equity firm Black Creek Group, has hired Howard Margolis as managing director and principal. In a newly created position, Margolis, who will be based in New York, is focusing on expanding MRP’s investment business, working to broaden both the firm’s investor base as well as building new types of asset platforms. He began at MRP last month and will report to John Blumberg, chairman.

“We’re seeing a lot of opportunity in Mexico,” said Margolis, in an interview with PERE. Particularly, that opportunity will be in mixed-use properties, which could potentially include retail space, along with an office or hotel component. “The idea is to see what other kinds of platforms and ventures we can create and how we can capitalize them.”

MRP is the founder of Mexico Retail Properties, which currently owns 59 retail and mixed-use properties in the Latin American country and manages more than $2 billion in total capital on behalf of sovereign wealth funds and US and Mexican public pension plans, among other investors. That company has 800 employees in Mexico, including 160 professionals at its Mexico City headquarters and the remainder located across the country. MRP also owns Infrastructure Institutional “I2,” a Mexico City-based infrastructure investment and development company.

Mexico Retail Properties currently is investing its listed private equity real estate fund, which raised nearly $400 million in capital on the Mexican Stock Exchange in March 2012. A listed private equity fund, known locally as a certificado de capital de desarrollo, or CKD, primarily targets Mexican pension plans, or Afores, which currently can invest in real estate only through a public vehicle.

Mexico Retail Properties also has raised four traditional private equity real estate funds, all of which are fully invested. Most of those fund assets are in the process of being sold to Mexican real estate investment trust Fibra Uno, which agreed in July to acquire 49 properties from MRP for roughly $23.16 billion pesos (€1.3 billion; $1.8 billion), in the largest-ever Mexican property transaction.

The addition of the Afores increases MRP’s investor base to 20 to 25 institutions, according to Margolis. “But we want to expand it,” he said. “The sovereign wealth funds and the pension funds, both in the US and in Mexico, clearly going to be groups we want to talk to.”

Margolis’ hire marks a return to Black Creek, where he served as managing director from 2006 to 2008 and was focused on Black Creek’s Mexican residential fund, Mira, a separate venture from MRP. But his relationship with the firm dates back even further, as he collaborated with Blumberg during Margolis’ prior role as senior vice president of investments at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), where he primarily was responsible for the origination and structuring of joint ventures, fund investments and corporate investments with both public and private equities. GIC has been a cornerstone investor in several funds managed by Mexico Retail Properties and also acquired a stake in the company from Equity International in 2008.

Before rejoining Black Creek, Margolis had held a number of different roles, including helping to manage the family money of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as head of real assets at both Quadrangle Asset Management and Willet Advisors and, most recently, overseeing the real assets investment program as managing director of real assets at Morgan Creek Capital Management.