Man of the moment: Michael Levy

Morgan Stanley veteran Michael Levy made a significant career move which saw him move to Dallas in November to guide the next generation of Crow Holdings.

Levy, most recently chief operating officer at Morgan Stanley’s investment management business, left the New York-based financial services firm to take over as chief executive and president at Crow, according to minutes from the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board, which has invested in Crow’s two latest value-added funds, as well as its second retail-focused fund.

Levy joined Morgan Stanley in 1998, according to his LinkedIn profile. His previous positions at the firm included chief operating officer, chief financial officer and head of traditional asset management for its Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing platform. A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley declined to comment, but PERE understands that John Hagarty, a Morgan Stanley Investment Management consultant, took Levy’s place as COO. “I have admired the Crow organization and professionals throughout my career and am excited and humbled by the opportunity to join this incredible organization,” Levy said.

An earlier iteration of Crow Holdings was founded to manage the capital of Trammell Crow, which started in the real estate industry in 1948, according to the firm’s website. After one of Trammell’s sons, Harlan, took over the family office in 1988, Crow began raising and investing institutional capital, closing the business’s first private equity real estate fund in 1998.

Harlan Crow noted that the process to identify the firm’s new leadership took over two years and that Levy’s appointment was “a key milestone.”

Succession planning is becoming central to both general partners and investors, Bob Jacksha, chief investment officer for New Mexico ERB, told PERE. Jacksha praised Crow’s transparency, saying the firm involved its limited partners throughout the process. He contrasted Crow’s approach with other managers that lacked succession plans and saw investment activity hit a standstill after a particular leader left the firm.

“Crow has a succession plan in place; the others did not,” Jacksha said. “It certainly looks like a plan to have an orderly succession, which is what you look for as an LP.”

Crow Holdings’ businesses include Trammell Crow Residential and Industrial, operating businesses that have over $4 billion of property under development, and Crow Holdings Capital, which manages over $10 billion of real estate funds for institutional investors.