US NEWS: Globe trotting

TPG Capital’s hire of a 20-year Morgan Stanley veteran is arguably the clearest sign yet that a dedicated real estate fund is in the cards for the Fort Worth, Texas-based private equity firm. The new appointment also may be an indicator of TPG’s plans to go global with its real estate investment business.

Robert Weaver, who left the investment bank in October, will be joining TPG’s New York office in December to help launch its real estate investment business. He previously was in charge of Morgan Stanley’s global private capital markets group, which spans the US, Europe, Asia and Australia and develops investment products, among other services.

Weaver is the latest senior-level recruit to TPG’s real estate group, although his specific role at the company has yet to be disclosed. In May, Adam Metz, the former chief executive officer of General Growth Properties, joined the company as a senior advisor, while former Westbrook Partners managing principal Avi Banyasz came on board in January in a senior position.

Speculation has been rife that TPG is looking to raise its first dedicated real estate fund, and Weaver’s real estate capital-raising expertise only adds fuel to the fire. “You don’t hire a senior industry capital raiser if you’re just looking to do deals,” said one industry source, who noted that TPG was likely to launch a fund in December or early 2012.

Given Weaver’s international credentials, the new appointment also may be a tip-off that TPG is aiming to expand its real estate presence abroad. “TPG has focused heavily on the US, so now they’re looking for diversification,” said another source. The firm is aiming to build a real estate team in its Hong Kong office to handle investments in Asia, according to the source, who spoke to two people who had interviewed for those positions. While an Asian real estate group at TPG has been talked about for at least a year, “I don’t think they’ve found the right people yet,” the source added.

For TPG, a new real estate fund and the global expansion of its real estate team may go hand-in-hand, as the promote from a new fund could be just the sort of recruitment tool the firm needs.