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Standard Chartered, Istithmar fund chief quits

Former Istithmar managing director Richard Johnson has resigned from his post as the chief executive officer of a jointly managed real estate fund by his old employer and current employer Standard Chartered.

Richard Johnson, the chief executive officer of a real estate fund jointly managed by Standard Chartered Bank and Dubai government-backed investor Istithmar, has resigned after the Middle Eastern group pulled out of the partnership.

Johnson relinquished his position after the partnership, which was first conceived late in 2006, broke down leaving Standard Chartered to take sole charge of the fund, entitled the Standard Chartered-Istithmar Asia Real Estate Opportunity Fund I. The vehicle targeted investments in Asia and planned to raise between $1 billion and $2 billion of equity from third-part investors.

The two groups had committed $100 million each to the vehicle as seed capital, although Istithmar, which is owned by Dubai government-backed Dubai World, has reportedly pulled this capital from the venture.

A spokesperson at Standard Chartered confirmed Johnson’s resignation but said he would be staying at the bank. She said: “Richard has left but he remains with the bank. He has resigned from the fund but he is still working with the bank and we are looking at other opportunities for him.”

She said: “Standard Chartered Real Estate Fund Management (Singapore) Pte Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered, is fully managing the ‘Standard Chartered-Istithmar Asia Real Estate Opportunity Fund I’ now.”

She said that there was still a good relationship between the two organizations.

According to a report by Asian Investor, Johnson, who was previously a managing director at Istithmar responsible for real estate transactions, financing, strategy and research on a global basis, found himself an employee at Standard Chartered after Istithmar pulled out of the fund. Johnson also previously worked for global property services firm Jones Lang LaSalle as an international director.

Istithmar was one of the world’s most prominent investors in global real estate in the years proceeding the credit crunch. It invested in a wide range of real estate sectors and through various formats. Deals included the $825 million purchase of Barneys store in New York and a $1 billion purchase of a 2.7 percent stake in Standard Chartered Bank itself, in October 2006.