Brookfield plots move into third party fundraising

The alternatives firm has hired a rash of heavy-hitting placement professionals and could launch a third party fund placement group as early the first quarter of 2009.

While the placement agent industry is in a state of flux, Brookfield Asset Management, the Toronto-headquartered alternative asset manager, has hired a group of private equity fund placement specialists and is plotting a move into third party capital raising.

Leo van den Thillart, managing partner of Brookfield’s private equity funds group, has brought in five senior placement professionals to help cover Asia, Europe and the US.

The team’s current remit is to raise capital for Brookfield’s own investment vehicles, which span various asset classes such distressed private equity, real estate, energy and infrastructure. But van den Thillart has the flexibility to begin taking on third party capital raising mandates as early as the first quarter of 2009, he told PEO in an interview.

Van den Thillart had previously founded independent placement agent business Crane Capital Associates, which was acquired by now-defunct investment banking group Bear Stearns in 2007. From its six offices worldwide, Crane had handled fundraising mandates for the likes of Paul Capital, Lexington Partners and Apollo Real Estate Advisors.

When Bear Sterns was acquired by JPMorgan in 2008, the 28-strong placement team was wound down and had dispersed by January 2009. After mulling the start-up of a new placement business with industry veteran Phil Pool, van den Thillart was subsequently approached by Brookfield to build up the group’s internal fundraising capabilities.

Among the rash of recent hires are three ex-managing directors from Bear Stearns’ private funds group. Peter Thomson joins the firm to cover institutional relationships in the UK and the Middle East, Robert von Herrmann joins to cover German-speaking Europe and Paul Tam, a veteran of both Crane and Bear Stearns, joins to cover Asia.

Brookfield has also appointed Alexander Apponyi, who founded the London office of placement agent Berchwood Partners and helped set up UBS’s European fund placement group, and Scott White, who was previously Citi Alternative Investments; head of deal execution and the manager responsible for capital raising.

The upheaval in the placement agent industry – caused by a combination of a dramatically slowing fundraising environment and increased scrutiny from law-makers – has caused some institutions to wind down their placement operations.

Citi, Merrill Lynch and Deloitte are among other groups to have recently confirmed they will halt or reduce placement activities. This trend, said van den Thillart, has allowed Brookfield to attract a calibre of professional that would otherwise have been tough to recruit.