EUROPE NEWS: Turning back the clock

In the 1990s, property veteran Roger Orf was the conduit to the European real estate market for New York-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

He sourced, invested, negotiated and closed deals on behalf of Apollo Real Estate Advisors, which was established by Apollo’s Leon Black and William Mack in the early 1990s and now trades independently as AREA Property Partners.

Three jobs and a decade later, Orf is once again Apollo’s man in Europe.

Orf, raised in the mid-Western state of Missouri, became involved with Apollo after moving to London in the early 1990s to establish Goldman Sachs’ Whitehall Street Funds. After 13 years with the bank, he then set up an independent investment firm, Pelham Partners, with a Goldman colleague.

At Pelham, Orf teamed up with Apollo Real Estate Advisors, as well as other private equity firms, investing a total of $600 million of equity in 40 transactions from London to Moscow, until 2001.

After Pelham wound itself down, he then joined Dallas-based Lone Star as head of European real estate. Next, in 2004, he became European head of Citi Property Investors and most recently, president and chief executive officer at the same firm. Now, following Apollo’s takeover of CPI – due to complete any time soon – Orf finds himself once again working with Apollo.

If Orf’s latest job has a retro feel to it, though, the task at hand is certainly contemporary.

According to sources, Orf has been made European head of real estate, but his role is wider than that. He will continue to oversee CPI’s three existing funds in the US, Europe, and Asia. In addition, Orf will play a role in shaping Apollo’s global fundraising and investment strategies, with Apollo’s head of real estate, Joseph Azrack, and head of Asia, Grant Kelley.

In this regard, the clock is turning back for Orf, with the two men working alongside each other when long-standing friend Azrack was president and chief executive of CPI. Indeed, it was Azrack who recruited Orf to CPI, with Orf telling PERE in 2007: “Eventually I decided it was an opportunity I could not refuse.” He hasn’t refused this latest opportunity either.

Those that know Orf and Azrack say they compliment each other. They say Orf’s track record of sourcing large deals and strategic thinking are big assets. While Azrack is no slouch in those areas, Azrack is known as a powerful performer on investment committees.

Orf, Azrack and Kelley will need all of their joint skills to further Apollo’s ambition in real estate. The firm is hoping to tap a well of distressed deals around the world and is currently raising a $1 billion fund rumoured to be a hybrid structure of part-club fund and part-commingled vehicle targeting the US and possibly Europe.