Starwood opens Brazil office, hires two execs

The Greenwich, Connecticut-based firm has hired ex-Sao Carlos and GoldenTree InSite executives Rodolfo Senra and Vitor Senra to lead its operations in Sao Paolo. Ryan Hawley will also relocate to the country to oversee acquisition activities.

Starwood Capital Group has opened its first office in Brazil, hiring former Sollers Investimentos founders Rodolfo Senra and Vitor Senra to lead the firm’s activities.

The Greenwich, Connecticut-based firm has been eyeing the country – particularly its hospitality sector – for some time, with sources telling PERE in June the company expected to open an office in Sao Paolo by the summer.

Starwood said in a statement it had hired the Senra’s to lead Starwood Capital Brasil from Sollers Investimentos, a Brazilian real estate investment firm focused on the office, warehouse and residential markets, which the two men founded in 2009.

Previously, Rodolfo Senra was chief investment officer at the real estate investment company Sao Carlos, while Vitor Senra was an associate with GoldenTree InSite Partners’ acquisitions team, focused on Brazil, between July 2008 and August 2009.

The duo will be joined by Starwood acquisitions professional Ryan Hawley, who joined the firm in 2006 and was most recently assistant to founder and chief executive officer, Barry Sternlicht.

The Sao Paolo office is Starwood’s 10th office, and fifth internationally, according to the statement with Sternlicht adding that the firm spent “several years studying the Brazil property market and [undertaking] an extensive executive search”.

Starwood is believed to be eyeing Brazilian hotel investments, in terms of catering to a growing and increasingly affluent middle class, and also to developing some high-end hotels in key cities.

The firm is already well-known for its international hotel acquisitions, including the 2005, $3.2 billion purchase of French conglomerate Groupe Taittinger and Société du Louvre, which owns the Baccarat brand and which Starwood founder Barry Sternlicht is hoping to expand into the Baccarat Hotels and Resorts chain.

Sources said in June: “Starwood is very bullish on Brazil. Starwood is very bullish on the hotel market in Brazil,” the source said, adding that roughly 15 percent of Brazilian hotels were affiliated with chains, and just half of those were affiliated with international chains. “There is a huge opportunity, the question is how to bring that together,” the person added.

Starwood closed its $965 million Starwood Capital Hospitality Fund II earlier this year, with around 20 percent of the capital having been deployed in the past year, three-quarters of that equity directed at debt deals.