GI provides UK real estate grandee with £150m war chest

Fresh from a $1.3bn fund close, the private equity firm has backed a start-up real estate investment firm led by former Lend Lease Europe chairman Nigel Hugill.

GI Partners has backed the launch of Urban & Civic, a UK land and real estate investment firm led by former Lend Lease Europe chairman Nigel Hugill and deputy chairman Robin Butler.

A source familiar with the matter said the private equity firm has taken a majority stake in Urban & Civic and will invest up to £150 million ($252 million; €168 million) from GI's third private equity fund, which closed in October on $1.9 billion and invests in both private equity and real estate deals.

Typically, GI's real estate deals relate to private equity businesses the firm is building, Mark Tagliaferri, GI's executive managing director, recently told PEO. For example, the firm has previously purchased vacant nursing homes in Europe that were later turned into part of the assets of a psychiatric care portfolio company.

GI has also in the past, however, financed and created a publicly listed real estate investment trust, Digital Realty Trust. Established post-dotcom collapse, the REIT went on “to become one of the best performing US REITs following listing on the NYSE in 2004, with a current market value of over $6 billion”, the firm said in a statement.

Hugill and Butler resigned from their Land Lease Europe positions in September to launch Urban & Civic, which will acquire strategic land or existing real estate in the UK “of metropolitan or regional scale” in order to improve the assets through development. The pair have a background in redevelopment, having worked on projects in London areas including Stratford, which will host the 2012 Olympic Games, Elephant & Castle and Westfield White City.

Urban & Civic has kicked off with the £27.5 million ($46 million; €30.8 million) purchase of a 1,100 acre plot 24 miles from Cambridgeshire. The plot, a former airfield declared surplus to requirements by the Ministry of Defence in 1995, houses more than 100 buildings including industrial and aircraft hangers as well as warehousing and office space.

The firm said it is “working on a pipeline of other prospective acquisitions and expects to make further announcements in due course”.