EUROPE NEWS: Brookfield's global fundraiser

Toronto's Brookfield Asset Management has expanded globally in recent years, but its relations with investors have not fully caught up.

Things are expected to change though after the real estate investor tapped Leo van den Thillart as managing partner to head up its existing private institutional equity team. He took up his position at Brookfield on 1 June in the firm's London office.

Van den Thillart is a former senior managing director and global co-head of private funds group at Bear Stearns, which was taken over by JPMorgan last year. JPMorgan subsequently decided to wind down the placement and advisory operation, reversing Bear Stearns' decision in 2007 to expand its capital raising business by acquiring Crane Capital, a firm founded by van den Thillart.

Jeff Blidner, a senior managing partner at Brookfield, said over the past few years Brookfield had become a more global organisation and is still opening new offices. However, it is less well known outside of North America, and Brookfield wants van den Thillart, from his base in London, to use his relationships with investors to improve on this.

We have a whole series of relationships whether it be in joint ventures, funds or other type of structures and we have hired Leo to be head of a team of people who can manage and foster those relationships and develop new ones. We sought to hire someone that understands their wants and needs.

“We have expanded our business operations and are now looking to expand our relationships on a global basis.” He added: “We have a whole series of relationships whether it be in joint ventures, funds or other type of structures and we have hired Leo to be head of a team of people who can manage and foster those relationships and develop new ones. We sought to hire someone that understands their wants and needs.”

Brookfield manages numerous private funds in real estate, timber, infrastructure and speciality funds including bridge financing and restructuring.

Blidner said its real estate operation is currently looking in many jurisdictions for opportunistic acquisitions, including in the UK.

Brookfield manages around $35 billion of real estate out of a total of $80 billion of assets under management. The properties are mainly offices in central business districts. It has a number of funds, such as core offices funds for the US and Canada, a real estate opportunity fund, the Brazilian vehicle Brascan Brazil Real Estate Partners and a real estate finance limited partnership.

The opportunity fund raised $240 million in 2006 and invests in underperforming properties in North America.

Last year, Brookfield formed a European vehicle to combine all of its European operations into a single operating platform.

Recently, the firm said it was eyeing distressed real estate opportunities. In the early 1990s, Brookfield acquired a number of properties including New York's World Financial Center complexes from a company controlled by Canadian developer, Paul Reichmann.

Brookfield's other senior managing partner is Bruce Flatt.