Oaktree expands its roots

Oaktree Capital has hired Colony Capital veteran John Brady to lead the firm's real estate group, expand its global presence and leverage its alternative asset platform.

Los Angeles-based alternative asset manager Oaktree Capital has hired John Brady, a 15-year veteran of Colony Capital, to lead the firm's global real estate team. At Colony, Brady led the recent acquisition of Fairmont Hotels and its merger with Raffles, as well as the firm's investment in the Meadowlands/Xanadu project, two deals with a combined transaction value of approximately $8 billion (€6.2 billion). Brady also helped establish Colony's Asian franchise in the late 1990s.

Though he still has a tremendous amount of respect for Colony head Tom Barrack—whom he called a “mentor”—Brady said the opportunity at Oaktree was too compelling to pass up. According to Brady, Oaktree historically pursued smaller, “below-the-radar” deals; going forward, he hopes to focus on the types of large-scale transactions he spearheaded at Colony. At the same time, he not only wants to expand the firm's presence in Asia and Europe, he also wants to take advantage of Oaktree's expertise in other asset classes.

“We're going to be leveraging all of the existing global platforms, particularly the distressed debt group and the global private equity group,” Brady said. “Most opportunities aren't clearly real estate, aren't clearly distressed debt, aren't clearly corporate private equity. It's really an opportunity for us to work with multiple teams at Oaktree to identify and execute proprietary transactions.”

One area that Brady and his team have already identified, in conjunction with the distressed debt group, is the CMBS market. Brady noted that the firm has already found one-off opportunities and, given the current state of the market, he anticipates more to come.

“In terms of a macro-trend, some would say the CMBS market is currently very healthy,” Brady said. “I would suggest that there is a backlog of potential opportunity that will come to the forefront, particularly as these issues need to get refinanced.”

Oaktree has been without a real estate head since late 2005, when Russell Bernard, Brady's predecessor, left to form Westport Capital Partners, a private equity real estate firm based in Stamford, Connecticut. In the interim, Oaktree has focused its efforts on asset management and realizations in the existing portfolio.

However, Brady noted that the firm anticipates hitting the fundraising trail in the latter half of this year. Though he declined to give specifics, other sources said that the firm could be targeting as much as $1 billion for its next private equity real estate vehicle.

Rockpoint co-founder to step down
Jonathan Paul is stepping down from Rockpoint Partners, the San Francisco-based private equity real estate firm he helped found in 2003. According to a statement, Paul “will take a reduced management role at the firm in order to pursue other interests,” but will continue to retain an ownership stake in the firm and will maintain a senior management role overseeing the firm's current portfolio. Paul cofounded the firm alongside William Walton, Patrick Fox, Keith Gelb and Gregory Hartman in 2003. The management team had split from Westbrook Real Estate Partners, which Walton started in 1994 with fellow Morgan Stanley pro Paul Kazilionis. Paul began his career with Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds in 1991. At Westbrook and Rockpoint, Paul has been involved with seven property funds which had more than $7 billion (€5.4 billion) in capital, according to the firm. He was recently overseeing Rockpoint's European investments.

LaSalle expands Mexico investment team
LaSalle Investment Management has added two professionals to its team in Mexico, naming Manuel Zapata as chief investment strategist and Richard Jacobs as portfolio controller. Zapata, who will be based in Mexico City, was formerly with GE Real Estate and Citigroup Equity Research, while Jacobs, who will be based in Chicago, was formerly with Aon Corp. LaSalle Investment Management made its first investment in Mexico in 2004.

Thor Equities loses acquisitions specialist
David Israel, the senior vice president of acquisitions for New York-based private equity real estate firm Thor Equities, has left the firm to join Fidelity Investments. At Fidelity, Israel will be based in Boston and will work on acquisitions for the firm's value-added fund series. Prior to joining Thor, Israel worked at a number of firms, including Real Estate Capital Partners, Louis Dreyfus Property Group and DRA Advisors.

Perseus hires fundraising pro
Washington DC-based real estate investment firm Perseus Realty Capital has hired Jay Jarrett to head up the firm's new fundraising division, which will focus on raising capital for established and emerging investment managers, real estate developers and operating companies. Jarrett joins from the Boston-based New Boston Fund, where he was in charge of the firm's investor relations department and oversaw fundraising, client management and reporting. Before joining New Boston, Jarrett worked as vice president and national director of sales at CDC IXIS Asset Management North America.

Former Somera pro joins Mesa West
Ryan Krauch has joined Los Angeles-based real estate finance company Mesa West Capital as a principal. At Mesa West, which was co-founded by Jeff Friedman and Mark Zytko, Krauch will help implement the firm's structured finance program. He previously worked at Somera Capital Management, where he was responsible for the firm's joint venture equity program.