ASIA NEWS: Life after Wong

One private equity real estate fund management firm keen to show its investors that its lights are still very much on, despite prior issues, is Hong Kong-based Winnington Capital.

In October, Winnington halted capital-raising for its second China real estate development fund, Trophy Property Development II, in the wake of a strategic disagreement between the firm’s founder Kenneth Hung and its chief executive officer Eddie Wong. That disagreement led to Wong’s departure and led the fund’s investors to vote against replacing him as key man.

Winnington, however, hopes to bounce back by adding seasoned veterans to its ranks. While Hung himself has assumed the mantle of chief executive officer, he has supplemented his efforts with the appointment of Philip Mintz, a senior executive previously at Asia Pacific Land, Warburg Pincus and GE Capital Real Estate, as Winnington’s chief investment officer.

Mintz is joined by Mehmet Dalman, a well-known investment banker with a lengthy resume encompassing groups such as Eurasian Natural Resources, Toscafund Asset Management, Commerzbank, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell Capital Markets, Credit Lyonnais Securities and Nikko Securities Europe.

The appointments were announced to investors ranging from institutions such as TIAA-CREF, The Townsend Group, Franklin Templeton Advisors and the Australian Post Superannuation Scheme to individual senior executives at Goldman Sachs.

In a statement issued to PERE, Winnington underscored that it still has an itch for investing in China’s real estate and that these hires would help. “These senior hires reinforce Winnington Capital’s platform and strengthen its position at a time when powerful economic dynamics in China – urbanisation, high savings rate and high GDP growth – continue to create good long-term opportunities in the Chinese property market,” the firm said. “Winnington believes the retail sector will respond especially well to these changes, and it has the team to take advantage of the opportunities.” 

Whether these appointments will lead to new investment vehicles remains to be seen. In October 2010, Winnington’s second fund, Trophy Property Development II, attracted $100 million of its $750 million target from three repeat investors of its maiden Trophy Property Development fund, which closed on more than $1 billion in 2008. After Wong left one year later, the firm halted its capital-raising efforts. 

According to one source familiar with the firm, certain investors are understood to have wanted Winnington to focus its energies on the assets of its first fund before entertaining sequels.