Morgenroth to leave Gothaer

One of the highest profile figures in European private equity real estate is leaving German insurance company Gothaer for Austria’s largest real estate firm chaired by the country’s former prime minister.

Michael Morgenroth, one of the highest profile figures in private equity real estate in Europe, is joining Austrian company Signa Group, it was revealed this morning.

Morgenroth, who is both a member of the board for property and infrastructure investing at the investment management arm at German insurance company, Gothaer, and chairman of the European Association for Investors in Non-listed Real Estate Vehicles (INREV) as well as chairman of the Property Commission of the German Insurance Association (GDV), is leaving Gothaer in March for Signa, Austria’s largest privately held real estate company.

His initial focus at Signa, which has a portfolio valued at more than €4 billion, will be to lead a drive into debt investments for the company.

Joining him at Signa will be Patrick Züchner, currently head of real estate at Gothaer Asset Management, plus team members Lars Armgart and Antje Bonnewitz, who together have executed 11 mezzanine debt transactions with a value of around €200 million since 2005.

Morgenroth joined the board of Gothaer Asset Management in 2004, where he pioneered a global indirect real estate investment strategy across the whole risk spectrum from core to opportunistic funds, covering Europe, the Americas and Asia. Gothaer’s invested real estate assets under management now total around €2 billion in equity, or €2.5 billion including investments to more than 60 funds.

At INREV, he has been campaigning against regulation such as the Solvency II capital adequacy requirements for insurers. Indeed, at the PERE Germany Forum 2010, for example, he led a “call to arms” on Solvency II, warning that insurance companies and pension funds would be reluctant to invest in real estate next year because of the uncertainty arising from the regulation.

Of his new appointment, Morgenroth said in a statement: “This is an exciting time to be joining the board of a leading real estate investor such as Signa, which is in a dynamic growth stage of its business. The significant regulatory changes proposed for the European investment markets mean that real estate debt, in particular, is likely to be increasingly attractive to institutional investors in the future, presenting great opportunities for those teams which have the experience and capital backing to take advantage of them.”

In addition to the launch of real estate debt funds from the new Dusseldorf-based business called Signa Real Estate Advisory, Morgenroth will be responsible for institutional clients and the German market, including the established real estate funds business.

Signa develops and invests in property and manages closed ended real estate funds. It was founded by entrepeneur René Benko 12 years ago. At the end of 2010 it set up a new operation to focus on premium properties in top European urban locations.

It has offices in Innsbruck, Vienna, Luxembourg, Zurich, Dusseldorf and Munich. The chairman is Alfred Gusenbauer, former prime minister of Austria.

Benko said in a statement: “Michael Morgenroth has immense experience in real estate investment and is a very welcome addition to Signa’s management board as we enter a new phase in the expansion of the company. In particular, we expect the dislocation in the markets stemming from the credit crisis to open-up huge opportunities in real estate debt in coming years.”