UK firm Henley makes CIO hire before fundraising

Surrey-based private equity real estate firm outlines growth ambitions following the appointment of ex-BlackRock MD Jeff Morton.

Henley Investments, a Surrey-based private equity real estate company, has poached a senior real estate executive from global asset management giant BlackRock to be its chief investment officer.

According to an announcement by the firm, it has appointed as its CIO Jeff Mortan who previously was a managing director and head of investments for BlackRock’s £2 billion (€2.5 billion; $3.92 billion) open-ended UK Real Estate Fund.

The firm said his hire comes before the firm embarks on a “capital raising programme” and that his central remit was to help it grow a “commercial fund management business”.

Ian Rickwood, the firm’s founding partner and chief executive officer said: “We expect to shortly announce a capital raising programme inviting equity participants to invest in the Henley Value Commercial Real Estate Fund. This will target total returns at a premium above Investment Property Databank (IPD) All Property forecasts.

He said: “We expect to utilize current and new client capital to make prudent contra-cyclical investment plays, in order to take advantage of short-term mispricing in certain commercial sectors of the market.”

Rickwood singled out Morton’s experience with institutional capital sources and property companies as being additive to its business going forward. Rickwood added that the firm had an ambition to grow its assets under management rapidly.

The firm, which was set up in 2007, currently has approximately £175 million of assets under management in both commercial and residential real estate across England, Wales and Scotland. Demonstrating its ambitions, the firm said that approximately £30 million of that was acquired in the last five months.

It has traditionally deployed capital from both institutional and syndicated investors, it said on its website.

Morton described Henley as an “entrepreneurial environment” in his statement on joining: “Henley is seeking to grow market share, attract new business, whilst continuing to provide exemplary service to existing investors.”