RREEF’s Asia leaders depart amid Guggenheim takeover

Head Niel Thassim and CIO Paul Keogh will not see their employment contracts renewed as the Deutsche Bank unit continues to pave the way for a takeover by New York-based financial services firm Guggenheim.

RREEF,the real estate and infrastructure business in the midst of a takeover by New York-based financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, has parted with its regional head and its chief investment officer in Asia.

PERE has learned managing director Niel Thassim, who was made head of Asia Pacific during the start of the global financial crisis, and Paul Keogh who became CIO in 2010, have opted not to renew their employment contracts and the two will now enter periods of gardening leave.

It is understood that RREEF will not replace either man, and, going forward, Asia’s heads of Greater China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia will report directly into RREEF global head Pierre Cherki.

Earlier today, Thassim sent an emailed announcement to contacts which said: “After almost 12 years with Deutsche Bank and RREEF, I wish to inform you that today is my last day as managing director and head of RREEF Real Estate, Asia Pacific.”

“I will continue my responsibilities as a director of RREEF China Commercial Trust for the foreseeable future,” he said before adding, “I will be taking a brief break and then look forward to updating you of my next opportunity shortly.”

Thassim joined Deutsche Bank in 2000 and has worked across its network of offices, including Australia, London and Singapore. He was recently based in Hong Kong. He previously worked for groups including Coopers & Lybrand, Bankers Trust, Credit Suisse First Boston and Colonial First State Investments.

Keogh meanwhile joined RREEF in 2004 and has since senior held roles for the platform’s Chinese REITs and was also its president in Korea.

While it is understood that Thassim and Keogh had different personal reasons for agreeing to depart, according to sources familiar with RREEF in Asia, the imminent expiry of their contracts, coupled with the platform’s ongoing sale to Guggenheim formed part of their decisions.

In February Guggenheim entered into exclusive talks to buy parts of Deutsche Bank Asset Management which were placed for sale last year, including RREEF, which currently manages €41.9 billion of assets across 22 offices and by approximately 600 staff. The decision to sell followed a strategic review by Deutsche Bank into its asset management division. Then, in May, the two firms agreed to end exclusive negotiations on buying three parts of the asset management division with a view to focussing solely on a deal for RREEF.

During the strategic review and subsequent sale process, a number of RREEF senior staff departed from the firm. In Asia, these included Ken Nakajima who left in February, chief financial officer Alex So and head of client services Jeremy Hall who both left last November.

There have been new joiners too however. In September Leslie Chua joined as head of research and strategy while in August the firm hired Rahui Ghai as head of Southeast Asia. RREEF’s current Asia real estate business employs about 50 staff responsible for €3.6 billion of assets, the majority of which was bought via core or securities strategies.

Neither Thassim, Keogh nor RREEF would comment.