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Starwood Capital Counts its Spoils

Victorious in the auction for Corus Bank's assets, the private equity firm may be ready to expand its portfolio.

Now that Starwood Capital Group's conquest of failed Corus Bank's $4.5 billion portfolio is completed, the private equity firm is prowling for new deals, though the company isn't parting with any particulars about its quest.

Starwood's next move hinges on the ambitions of chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht. There are hints that he's in a holiday shopping mood. “Barry's a very active guy. I'm sure there's lots of things going on, but we haven't made any announcements since the Corus deal was announced,” says Starwood spokesman Tom Johnson.

Starwood led a private equity consortium that beat seven other bidders for the Chicago-based bank's assets after government regulators shut down Corus Bank Sept. 11. As receiver, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) sold the deposits and assets separately. Chicago-based MB Financial Bank nabbed the deposits and $3 billion in cash assets and securities.

Starwood, based in Greenwich, Conn., offered $554 million for a 40% stake in the remaining assets, according to the FDIC. The transaction by Northwest Investments LLC consortium, managed by Starwood, is valued at $2.77 billion, or about 60% of the Corus portfolio of performing and non-performing loans and assets with a principal unpaid balance of $4.5 billion.

The 23 million sq. ft. of newly acquired assets include condos whose construction loans soured and contributed to the bank's downfall. The portfolio comprises 12,000 condos, mainly in Miami, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, along with 14 apartment complexes and eight office buildings. The portfolio totals more than 100 loan and real estate owned assets.

“They are reviewing every single property in the portfolio,” says Johnson. Since the sale closed in mid-October, Northwest Investments consortium, which includes Fort Worth, Texas-based TPG Capital, New York-based Perry Capital and WLR LeFrak, has been busy getting the new venture up and running.

“I believe this is the largest acquisition of distressed commercial real estate that's ever been done,” says Johnson. But Starwood is an old pro and has invested in and managed assets since 1991.

In a rare move, the FDIC is partnering with Starwood by holding a 60% equity interest in the newly created Corus Construction Ventures, LLC, with Starwood Capital as managing partner.

It's not the first time the regulator has partnered with a buyer of distressed assets, says FDIC spokesman David Barr. “It's not a widely used tool for selling assets, but it is a tool we will use on occasion.” The FDIC is providing a working capital loan of up to $1 billion to complete pending projects.

The agency has only entered such partnerships eight times, but the Resolution Trust Corp., which disposed of distressed properties after widespread failures of savings and loans in the late 1980s, partnered more than 70 times.

Corus is one of 106 banks to fail through Oct. 29 — roughly four times the 26 failures FDIC recorded in 2008. The FDIC insures deposits at the nation's 8,195 banks and savings institutions, but gets no federal tax funds.

Starwood got a big discount on the value of Corus' assets — 60 cents on the dollar — and nervous developers in Miami are slashing unsold condo prices to whittle their inventory before the wave of Corus units hits the market. Corus Bank formerly was the third largest condo construction lender in South Florida, and its portfolio instantly makes Starwood a major player in that arena.

In Progress: Sterling Crimson Apartments

DEVELOPER: The Dinerstein Cos., a family-owned firm

LOCATION: Tuscaloosa, Ala.

SIZE: 700 beds

BUZZ: The student housing community will be built near the University of Alabama and will include 316 units with one to four bedrooms apiece. The Houston office of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP arranged a $27.12 million construction loan for the apartments, which will feature a resort-style pool and coffee bar.


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