StepStone to lose partner – Exclusive

One of the top executives in the firm’s real assets consulting business will be departing just months after the close of StepStone’s acquisition of Courtland.

StepStone Real Estate is losing one of the top executives in its real assets consulting business, the second such senior exit in the past few months, PERE has learned.

Gianluca Romano, formerly the managing director of Europe for Courtland Partners and a partner of SRE, will be leaving the firm after four years. PERE understands that Courtland’s clients were informed of the departure early last week.

Following an approximately two-month transition period at SRE, Romano is said to be joining a global real estate investment manager in a strategic planning role.

Romano joined Courtland in 2014 as managing director for Europe and subsequently opened the firm’s London office and its first overseas location. He was the sole Courtland employee in the region. Managing director Kieran Farrelly, who is based in London, will be adding Romano’s responsibilities to his own existing duties after the latter’s departure.

News of Romano’s exit comes just two months after StepStone’s acquisition of Courtland, the latter of which he was a part owner under a succession plan finalized in June 2017. He was one of only two Courtland executives that became a partner of SRE, along with managing principal Steven Novick.

Romano is the second senior executive in StepStone’s real assets consulting business to have left in the past few months. Alex. Brown Realty announced last month that former Courtland managing director and principal Michael Murphy was joining the firm as a senior member of its investment management and capital markets group, in charge of marketing ABR’s investment funds and other investment programs.

Murphy was a 14-year veteran of Courtland, serving as the lead consultant for multiple public, corporate, and union pension fund accounts.  Like Romano, he was a part owner of Courtland prior to the acquisition by StepStone. Murphy’s responsibilities have been reallocated to other senior members of the SRE and legacy Courtland team. SRE also plans to hire junior staff to help provide additional support.

“Any integration can catalyze employees to rethink their careers, and we’re not at all surprised we lost a couple of people,” Jeff Giller, head of SRE, told PERE.  “This was the case with Luca and Mike, who both decided to explore different kinds of roles in the industry. However, clients have been really supportive and we’ve won a bunch of new business since the integration.”

Over the past few months, since Courtland’s integration with StepStone was announced, SRE has formed a global discretionary real estate separate account with a major sovereign wealth fund, as well as closed on a number of new advisory and consulting mandates with clients in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, he said.

SRE acquired 100 percent of the equity in Courtland from its former owners, which include the estate of managing principal and co-founder Michael Humphrey, who died suddenly in November 2016; Novick, Murphy, Romano, senior vice president Andrew Mitro; and Courtland EPPV 2016, an employee profits interest plan.

In June 2017, PERE reported that Courtland was considering a potential sale  and by November, SRE was considered a lead contender to buy the firm. By January, the two parties had signed an agreement for SRE to acquire Courtland, with the transaction closing in early April.

Most of the legacy Courtland team continues to operate out of its former headquarters in Cleveland. Following the close of the acquisition, Courtland’s staff in Los Angeles and London merged with StepStone’s offices in California and London.

StepStone Real Estate is the real estate arm of StepStone, a private markets firm with over 350 employees and more than $40 billion of assets under management.