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UBS Launches Real Estate Principal Finance

UBS is starting up a real estate principal finance business in Europe and has hired Wilson Lee, a veteran of the European real estate finance markets, to spearhead the effort.

UBS is starting up a real estate principal finance business in Europe and has hired Wilson Lee, a veteran of the European real estate finance markets, to spearhead the effort. Most recently, Lee was European head of real estate finance at Lehman Brothers in London.

Lee said his mandate is to use the firm's balance sheet across the board and provide capital in the form of senior loans, mezzanine loans and equity investments in the European commercial real estate market. The global real estate group at UBS can invest up to $15 billion.

UBS moved into principal finance in the U.S. about five years ago and the decision to commit its balance sheet in Europe flows from the success of that experience, according to Brian Harris, global head of real estate finance in New York. In addition, most of UBS' competitors, including Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch, all have principal teams in place in Europe, noted Lee. Lee reports to Harris.

Until now, UBS has been involved only on an agent basis in commercial real estate deals in Europe. European securitization is headed up by Steve Skerret in London, with Leland Bunch responsible for commercial mortgage-backed securitization. Lee expects to work together with the agency team on securitization exits and noted that over time the CMBS team might become part of the principal real estate team in London, which would mirror the team structure in the U.S.

Lee spent 18 years at Lehman Brothers in real estate finance, including 10 in New York and the last eight in London where he focused on the principal business. He left Lehman in the summer of 2004.

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