Monroe Capital makes senior hire to launch dedicated RE strategy

Monroe, which began investing in real estate in earnest about three years ago, plans to hire two more sector-focused professionals by the end of the year.

Monroe Capital has recruited a senior executive as the firm makes a concerted push into the real estate sector, PERE has learned.

Real estate and private equity veteran Gila Cohen has joined the Chicago-based asset manager from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group as the head of global institutional partnerships, a newly created role.

One of Cohen’s main responsibilities will be driving the launch of the firm’s inaugural dedicated real estate focused credit strategy later this year. PERE understands the plan to launch a dedicated real estate credit strategy was driven by Monroe’s strong deal flow in the space and the increased need among asset owners for capital partners, particularly on complex transactions.

Cohen, who started at Monroe on May 16, will be based in New York. She will report to Monroe chairman and chief executive Theodore Koenig.

Gila Cohen Monroe
Cohen: will be driving the launch of the dedicated real estate strategy

“We are very excited to add Gila to the Monroe Capital team,” Koenig said. “Gila has an accomplished career of over 25 years of experience in alternative investments focusing on global institutional investors and capital formation. She brings with her many long-term relationships and much experience across the globe. We are fortunate to have Gila join our already robust team in continuing to expand our global footprint.”

Cohen will be partnering with co-heads of opportunistic credit and real estate Kyle Asher and Aaron Peck, and managing directors of real estate and opportunistic credit Jason Starr and Matt Phillips, on the capital raising, deal sourcing and structuring of the new real estate credit strategy. The strategy will invest across the capital stack and is scheduled to launch during the fourth quarter. Additionally, she will be in charge of creating partnerships with large institutional investors across the firm’s businesses, but with an initial focus on real estate, opportunistic credit and special situations.

Monroe’s real estate finance platform originates first mortgage value-add and opportunistic bridge loans, as well as single asset or portfolio structured financings, primarily in the US but with the capability to invest overseas. It is one of the focus areas for Monroe’s opportunistic credit strategy, which the manager launched 18 years ago. Last week, the firm held a final close on its Monroe Capital Opportunistic Private Credit Fund I on $286 million of limited partner commitments. The fund invests in opportunistic and special situation private credit transactions across multiple industries and has a significant allocation to real estate.

But while Monroe – which ranked 66 on affiliate title Private Debt Investor’s PDI 100 ranking last year – has long invested in real estate through its opportunistic credit business, Monroe did not begin investing in the asset class in earnest until approximately three years ago. To bolster its real estate efforts, the firm hired Starr in 2019, followed by Phillips last year. The firm plans to hire two additional real estate-dedicated professionals by the end of the year.

12 for 12

Monroe has completed over 12 real estate transactions in the last 12 months. Recent transactions include the $250 million investment in Second Avenue Group, a Tampa, Florida-based single-family rental platform through a mix of debt and equity capital; the acquisition of the Shore Club hotel in Miami, with real estate developer Witkoff; and the purchase of a stalled residential project at 76 11th Avenue in New York in partnership with Witkoff and New York-based conglomerate Access Industries. In such deals, Monroe provides some of the financing and acquires a partial ownership interest in the underlying properties.

Cohen previously had been chief investment strategy officer at MUFG since September 2021. In that role, she was focused on the advisement, direction and governance of the firm’s alternatives investment portfolio. Cohen also worked on developing strategic partnerships across the bank and sourcing investment opportunities for a wide range of MUFG entities. She joined the Japanese bank in 2019 as head of real estate and private equity. Cohen will remain an advisory board chair to the bank’s independent investment committee following her departure.

Prior to MUFG, she was managing partner at Castle Lanterra, a New York-based multifamily real estate firm, where she was responsible for the firm’s corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and private placement efforts. Cohen’s other senior roles during her 25-year career include senior consultant and head of corporate strategy and client relations at real assets advisory firm Courtland Partners, now part of New York-based private markets firm StepStone Group; and head of business development and chief administrative officer at New York-based credit asset manager Golub Capital.

Founded in 2004, Monroe Capital specializes in private credit markets across various strategies – including direct lending, asset-based lending, specialty finance, opportunistic and structured credit, and equity – serving borrowers in the US and Canada. As of April 1, the firm had approximately $14 billion of assets under management and over 160 employees, including approximately 80 investment professionals focused on deal sourcing and underwriting.