International Funds And Socimis Hire First-Rate Executives

4 May 2015 – Expansión

Director appointments in Spain / Large international investors and Socimis have been recruiting senior Spanish executives to design their strategies in the country and identify real estate opportunities.

Large overseas investors are hiring first-rate advisors to lead the businesses that they have acquired in Spain. Over the last six months, funds such as Cerberus, Apollo and Lone Star have hired former directors of Ibex companies to support them (execute) their strategies in Spain.

Some of the Spanish Socimis have also hired first-rate executives, including Uro Property and the listed real estate company Hispania, owned by Azora.

Through these appointments, investors are taking the third step in a process to strengthen their strategies to conquer the Spanish real estate sector. To begin with, they put certain Spanish-speaking executives in charge of entering the market. Such was the case of Andrés Rubio (Apollo), Juan Pepa (Lone Star) and Michael Abel (TPG).

The next step was the acquisition of real estate platforms, such as Altamira, purchased by Apollo; Bankia Habitat – now Haya Real Estate – acquired by Cerberus; and Neinor, which was awarded by Kutxabank to Lone Star.

Following these purchases, the funds have sought advice from top executives. “Some of the funds’ foreign directors have made successful acquisitions, but they now need highly skilled, top-level, local professionals to implement their business plans”, says Patricio Palomar, Director of Alternative Investment at CBRE.

“The hardest thing in the real estate sector is finding and accessing opportunities, but these experienced professionals have the skills to achieve that”, adds Carlos Ruiz-Garma, Director of Business Development at Aguirre Newman.

New hires

The most active fund in terms of new recruits has been Cerberus, which has hired two senior bankers for its Spanish subsidiaries in the last few months. Franciso Luzón, former board member and Vice President at Santander, is now a board member at Haya Real Estate, the real estate company that inherited Bankia Habitat’s business; and Manuel González Cid, the former Finance Director at BBVA, has joined the board of directors at Gescobro, the firm that specialises in debt collection.

Another big name signing was that of Oscar Fanjul, as a board member of Altamira, the real estate company owned by Apollo. Fanjul is Vice President at Omega Capital and used to be the Chairman of Repsol.

The fund Lone Star has also drawn on the market for former directors of listed companies to strengthen its strategy. This investor, which purchased Kutxabank’s property developer for €930 million at the end of last year, has hired Juan Velayos to lead the project; he used to be a Partner at PwC and who was the CEO of Renta Corporación until 2011. Lone Star will reveal its strategy for Neinor over the next few weeks.

In the face of all of these new signings, one of the largest funds to show its commitment to Spain, TPG – which is the majority shareholder in Servihabitat – substituted the former banker Rodrigo Rato last April.


The Socimis, (many of) which are in turn owned by international investors, are also committed to hiring experienced directors. In this sense, the real estate manager Azora, which controls Hispania, hired Juan María Nin as a board member at the end of last year; until June 2014, he was the CEO of CaixaBank.

The Socimi Uro Property has also followed in the same footsteps; Uro owns some of Santander’s (branch) network and it has appointed Carlos Martínez Campos as its Chairman; he was formerly the Chairman of Barclays España until its sale to CaixaBank. The banker also used to chair Prosegur.

In addition to the signings of former directors of Ibex companies, the opportunistic funds have also hired at least a dozen other executives in recent months. For example, Gonzalo Gómez Navarro, from the Empark Group, has joined Altamira; and the former directors of Sareb, Walter de Luna and Juan Barba, joined Acciona Inmobiliaria and Meridia Capital, respectively.

Original story: Expansión (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake