Citigroup taps new head of real estate business

Citigroup makes up ground lost to its rivals by appointing a new head of its real estate principal investment business in Asia.

Citigroup has hired David Schaefer from Macquarie to be a managing director and head of Asia Pacific for its Citigroup Property Investors business. This division was set up one year ago by Joseph Azrack in New York and seeks to put the bank's capital to work by investing in global real estate equity. The group does not conduct advisory business although it might undertake management contracts on a selected basis.

Schaefer joins from Macquarie where he worked for the last five and a half years. In that time he rose to be the head of the Australian bank's Asian property business, first in Korea and then most recently last year moving to Hong Kong. He has been in Asia since 1994 initially as an entrepreneur in Singapore, investing in Southeast Asian hotels.

He will still be based in Hong Kong with Citigroup and is currently looking to hire a team of property investors to help him expand. This expansion will include Tokyo where Citigroup Property Investors will be opening an office. Investments in the rest of Asia, including Korea, India and Australia will be undertaken from the Hong Kong office. Citigroup Property Investors also has offices in Los Angeles and London, from where the European business is run by Roger Orf, who recently joined from Lone Star.

Citigroup's push into this business is understandable when seen in the light of what other investment banks have done in real estate. Macquarie, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch have all been making vast profits in global real estate investing in recent years. This has either been in distressed investing, development investing, advisory and/or management. Citigroup is clearly seeking to catch these leaders with the appointment of someone as high profile as Schaefer.

It is understood that global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles organized Schaefer's move.

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