Starwood bulks up

Following a spate of new hires and fund closings, Starwood has hired William Jandrisits as director of finance to help manage its rapid expansion.

William Jandrisits knows a thing or two about real estate. He has spent virtually his entire career in the industry, much of it with the Royal Bank of Canada, where he served as Vice President of Global Real Estate and was responsible for managing the bank's worldwide real estate portfolio. So when Starwood Capital was looking for someone to occupy their newly-created position of director of finance, Jandrisits' name came up.

“We needed to add a leading financial expert who could both oversee our current portfolio and help us structure competitive acquisition financings,” said Jerry Silvey, Starwood's Chief Financial Officer, in a statement.

In recent months, Starwood Capital, led by founder Barry Sternlicht, has been bulking up both in terms of staff and dollars under management. The firm recently closed two separate funds with total equity of approximately $2.4 billion (€2 billion): Starwood Global Opportunity Fund VII on $1.5 billion and Starwood Capital Hospitality Fund I on $900 million.

The firm has also created two new arms to help manage its various projects around the world. Last year, Starwood launched Starwood Development, led by Gary Raymond, former president and chief executive officer of Intrawest, to help oversee the company's development activities and related resort and condo/hotel investments. And last month, the firm created Starwood Land Company, led by former St. Joe/Arvida CEO Jim Motta, to oversee development of the firm's residential and resort investments in the Eastern United States and Caribbean.

Given that growth, the firm needed someone to manage the financing of all these assets. In his new position, Jandrisits will be responsible for overseeing the financing of all of Starwood's acquisitions, as well as the refinancing of portfolio assets.

Before joining Starwood, Jandrisits' most recent position was as a managing director of North American real estate for RBC, where he served for three years and was responsible for various aspects of the company's real estate lending activities, including loan production, structuring of complex transactions, monitoring business performance and oversight of several operating units of RBC's North American lending operations. Jandrisits has also worked for Sun Life Trust as a manager in the Real Estate Finance division and at Citibank Canada, where he was a senior associate in Corporate Real Estate.

Jandrisits will report to Silvey and be based out of the company's headquarters in Greenwich, CT.

Mass PRIM hires Canlas
Lourdes Canlas has joined the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Board as senior investment officer for real estate and timber. She replaces George Wilson, who left in January to join the Boston-based institutional real estate consulting firm Morris and Morse. Canlas was previously senior investment officer with the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund. In her new capacity Canlas will help operate Mass PRIM's $4 billion real estate portfolio.

New CFO for GSC Capital
Brian Oswold has replaced April Spencer as new CFO for real estate investment trust GSC Capital Corp. Oswold was previously CFO and CAO with Capital Trust, a finance and investment management REIT. Oswold has 24 years of experience in accounting and financial control. GSC says Spencer will assist the company during the transition before pursuing other opportunities.

Crane Capital takes on new managing partner
Michelle LeRoy has joined Crane Capital Associates, an international placement specialist for private equity funds and alternative asset managers. LeRoy, who will join Crane as a managing partner, will lead Crane's origination, due diligence and fund-raising efforts for real estate funds and institutional investors. Prior to taking on this role, LeRoy was head of investor relations for two of the top performing REITs of 2004 and 2005: SL Green Realty Corp. and Gramercy Capital Corp.

University of California hires Gloria Gil
Gloria Gil is the new director of real estate assets for the pension and endowment plans of the University of California. Gil most recently served as senior investment officer for real estate with the Los Angeles County Employees' Retirement Association (LACERA). She will be responsible for developing and managing a real estate program for the university. The UC pension and endowment plans have allocated $3 billion to real estate investments, representing five percent of their total assets. Trina Bigby-Sanders will replace Gil as interim head of real estate at LACERA.

New Role for McCormick
The Board of Directors at Mid-America Apartment Communities has elected Mary Beth Shanahan McCormick to serve as a new director and as a member of the board's audit committee. McCormick recently retired from 16 years at the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, where she directed the $64 billion fund's real estate investments. She also oversaw a $1.3 billion internally managed REIT portfolio. McCormick currently sits on the board of directors and audit committee of EastGroup Properties, a self-administered equity REIT. Mid-America is an apartment-only real estate investment trust which owns or has interest in 38,477 apartment units in the US.

Blackstone acquires REIT for $5.6bn
The Blackstone Group has agreed to buy CarrAmerica Realty Corp., a publicly traded commercial real estate company, for $5.6 billion (€4.6 billion) in an effort to build a platform for future investments in the office sector. The private equity firm will acquire all of CarrAmerica's shares for $44.75 each, an 18.4 percent premium over the company's closing stock price the day prior to published reports of a potential acquisition of the company. CarrAmerica owns interests in 285 office properties totaling 26.3 million square feet.

Colliers, AEW team up in New York City
A joint venture between Colliers ABR and AEW Capital Management is making good on its strategy to scoop up off-market properties in New York City. The partnership recently made its second investment of $500 million (€413 million) in a 22-story office tower at 119 West 40th St. and a five-story building at 120 West 41st. The partnership plans to focus on Class B office and retail properties, as well as development sites in strategic locations near major transportation hubs.

JER sells Chicago hotel
McLean, Virginia-based JER Partners has made a quick exit from its investment in the Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel in Chicago, which it purchased a little over a year ago in January 2005 for an undisclosed price. Last month, the private equity real estate firm sold the property to LaSalle Hotel Properties for $215 million (€178 million). The upscale hotel is located in the heart of Chicago's magnificent mile neighborhood and has 751 guestrooms, as well as almost 38,000 square feet of meeting space.

Carlyle Group buying and selling
The Carlyle Group was involved in two big-number transactions last month, with the deals totaling approximately nearly $400 million (€331 million). In early March, the Washington D.C.-based firm purchased a 409-unit high-rise apartment building in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for $102 million. The company plans to sell the units as condominiums rather than apartments. Five days later, the firm sold the 1,192-room Chicago Marriot Downtown Magnificent Mile, which it owned in a joint venture with LaSalle Hotel Properties, for $295 million.

Magic Johnson enters Houston market
Canyon Johnson Urban Funds, co-founded by basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, has made its first ever investment in the Houston area, acquiring the 360,000 square foot Marq*E Center in West Houston for an undisclosed price. Canyon Johnson, which focuses on urban revitalization throughout the country, says it plans to enhance the Marq*E Center by adding new uses that foster a more “family-oriented” environment. Based in Los Angeles, Canyon Johnson Urban Funds are a collaboration between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and Johnson.