EUROPE NEWS: Starman’s next turn

Starwood Capital Group recently completed a £360 million (€421 million; $547 million) acquisition of UK-based hotel, conference and training center company Principal Hayley Group from majority owner Lloyds Banking Group. Completion of the deal on February 27 was significant for Starwood, with chairman and chief executive officer Barry Sternlicht calling it an “exciting investment” that provided a platform to further expand the firm’s global hotel portfolio in Europe.

The deal was significant for another party as well. Desmond Taljaard, Starwood’s European chief operating officer and head of asset management, had been a key member of the firm’s European team for six-and-a-half years, but the completion of the Principal Hayley transaction has allowed him to leave the Greenwich, Connecticut-based firm and set up his own platform.

Speaking with PERE, Taljaard said he has established Mildmay Capital, which will target hotel investments in northern Europe. For capital, he expects a small number of family offices to make up the investor base.
When he joined Starwood in November 2006, Taljaard was one half of the senior management team in Europe. The other was Sean Arnold, head of European acquisitions, who left in 2011 to start Crosstree Real Estate Partners.

As a leisure property expert, Taljaard was involved in a number of deals during his tenure, mainly in the hospitality sector, using his experience built up at a series of well-known corporates. Prior to joining Starwood, he was head M&A and development director at Whitbread, a large UK pubs and restaurants group, from 2004 to 2006. Before that, he was property director at Sainsbury’s Supermarkets for a year and, prior to that, was global head of real estate at Hilton International for eight years.

“The challenge is to find the right deal as opposed to the right capital,” Taljaard said of his new venture. “The gap between seller and buyer expectation still exists, and there is very much a focus on sponsors with the right assets in the right locations.”

Carlyle team splits
Top two executives at Carlyle Europe to leave

Eric Sasson, head of European real estate at The Carlyle Group, and Robert Hodges, head of asset management in the region and UK investments, are leaving to start their own investment firm after their employer decided to concentrate on asset management rather than raise a new fund.

In a statement, Carlyle said: “We can confirm that Eric Sasson and Robert Hodges are resigning from The Carlyle Group to pursue their own business interests.  Their departure is amicable, and they will leave later in the year to allow for a seamless transition – we wish them well for the future. “

The Washington DC-based firm added: “We have a strong, experienced fund advisory team in place in Europe, and the ongoing asset management of the funds’ European property investments will be unaffected as we continue to strive towards creating value for our limited partners. “

Christopher Finn, the founder of Carlyle’s European operations 15 years ago and a member of the Carlyle Europe real estate board for more than 12 years, will be moving from his board position to lead the European real estate advisory team.