GLOBAL - Former ING Real Estate Select CEO Nick Cooper has joined The Townsend Group as part of a push to develop the group's multi-manager business in Europe and Asia.
Principal Adam Calman said the appointment followed the consultant's "significant aggregation of liquidity". With an influx of new investors joining Townsend's client base, Calman said Cooper had been brought in to underwrite investors' capital and to attract more of it.
"There are opportunities out there. We're trying to find nuggets in the next generation of funds we can form capital around. For that you need to be on the ground," he said.
He described the top end of the investor community as "very thin", pointing to the demand for recapitalisation of failed funds.
"As the asset class has attracted more capital, it's become more ambitious in terms of returns," he said. "So as well as core, deep, mature markets of the UK, the US and mainland Europe, we need to go to emerging markets for returns. We're making a focused, concentrated effort to attack that market with vigour."
He said the past 12-18 months had brought in new types of investors for the consultancy, which had historically focused on US state pension plans clients. In contrast, new clients were more likely to be Asian sovereign wealth funds and European pension funds, as well as private client banks. "We're seeing success in new areas, as well as in traditional public sector pension plans," he said.
Last year, Townsend was one of five investors to join a $4bn (€3.1bn) investor consortium set up by Brookfield Asset Management to provide equity for distressed acquisitions. The consortium, Brookfield Turnaround Club, is currently bidding for $11bn US giant General Growth Properties. The other five members of the consortium are sovereign wealth funds.
Under the terms of the six-way consortium agreement, each investor has a veto on deals presented by Brookfield for which the fund manager has already done due diligence. The manager then substitutes the contribution of any investor who chooses to pull of out the deal.
"It's an equity syndicate," says Calman. "Brookfield comes up with the opportunities, then it's down to structure and fees." Asked about the downside risks of the club structure, he said: "Every transaction has risk or you wouldn't do it."
The club has a three-four-year investment period and a seven-year life. However, Calman said that, if the club was successful, he saw no reason why it should not continue.