Savills, Ex-Lehman Pros Form Joint Venture

Savills has teamed up with a company that includes former Lehman Brothers real estate chief Mark Walsh to form a joint venture that will manage debt and equity investments for third-party clients in North America.

The alliance adds an asset-management arm to the U.S. division of Savills, a London company that has focused on advising clients, brokering properties and arranging debt and equity. And it gives Silverpeak Real Estate, an investment-management firm led by Walsh and several other former Lehman executives, access to asset-management assignments in the U.S. for Savills' worldwide client roster, which includes foreign and domestic banks, sovereign wealth funds, wealthy buyers and institutional investors.

The joint venture is another step forward in Savills' ongoing effort to position itself to represent foreign investors targeting U.S. properties. The U.S. operation, based in New York, recently opened offices in Washington and Los Angeles and hired three professionals from CB Richard Ellis to form a cross-border advisory team to help those buyers scout out properties.

“The next logical step is to be able to help them asset-manage those properties to make sure that they reach their full potential over the length of the investment,” said John Lyons, chief executive of the U.S. division of Savills. The company has some 200 offices globally and offers management services outside of the U.S.

The joint venture, Savills Liberty Street Asset Management of New York, is led by Lyons and Brad Lebovitz, a managing director of Silverpeak. Also working on the effort are Arthur Milston, a Savills managing director in New York, and Rod Reynolds, a senior vice president in Silverpeak's Atlanta office. More staffers will be added as the company takes on clients.

New York-based Silverpeak was formed last year by Walsh and several other ex-Lehman executives, including Brett Bossung, Mark Newman, Kevin Dinnie and Rodolpho Amboss.

As head of Lehman's global real estate group, Walsh financed dozens of major property transactions during the real estate boom, supplying both equity and debt. He built a reputation as one of Wall Street's savviest and most aggressive real estate operators. But Lehman's mammoth $33 billion real estate portfolio was hammered by the downturn, contributing to the company's bankruptcy filing in September 2008 and leading to Walsh's departure.

Silverpeak acquired the management rights to three Lehman property funds with about $7.2 billion of total equity and roughly $15 billion of assets, which it oversees with a subadvisor, Broadcliff Capital of London. Silverpeak, which has six offices staffed by 80 employees, will continue to manage those assets separate from the joint venture.

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