When GWL Realty Advisors (GWLRA) decided to expand into the United States, president Paul Finkbeiner said the Canadian real estate investment and management firm had two key goals; find a company with a similar mix of assets, and a similar mindset toward management and growth.
When it came upon EverWest Real Estate Partners, Finkbeiner said it didn’t take long for a synergy to develop. Friday, GWLRA acquired the private Colorado-based firm and its Cdn$2B in assets under management.
“These are great people who have similar values to us. We talk the same, we think the same,” Finkbeiner told RENX in an interview Friday afternoon. “We had a checklist of things that we wanted. We wanted the culture fit. We wanted to be consistent with a similar asset class. They are mainly office, industrial and multi-res and we are in those asset classes.”
EverWest manages a portfolio of more than 50 properties in “key markets” across the United States according to its website. EverWest is headquartered in Denver and has regional offices in Irvine, San Jose and San Francisco, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Chicago; and Boston.
Rick Stone, EverWest president and CEO, along with his leadership team, will continue to oversee the business.
U.S. the “logical place to go”
“We’ve been looking for a while,” Finkbeiner said. “We were watching a lot of Canadian pension funds going down there.
“We are all kind of struggling in Canada with the same thing, it’s a marketplace that’s dominated by Canadian pension funds and Canadian REITs, so to get our clients a bit of diversification and access to more properties, (the U.S.) seemed like the logical place to go.”
Finkbeiner said EverWest offers a similar suite of services and expertise. Acquiring a company with operations similar to GWLRA also will allow it to leverage its own expertise as it expands into what for it is a new market.
“From a real estate standpoint, they are nuts and bolts real estate people. They will do the property management and they understand real estate from its grassroots. Not all the groups we looked at had that,” Finkbeiner said. “In Canada we property manage, asset manage, lease, develop and this group had a similar mindset. So there were a number of boxes they ticked in our selection process.
“Looked like us a few years ago”
“It’s a comfort level. We are in four asset classes and the smallest percentage of our assets is in retail. We didn’t, then, go look for somebody who was big in retail. We wanted to find somebody that looked like us a few years ago, that looked and felt like Property Advisors did 10 years ago.
“It was like trying to buy yourself.”
Looking ahead, Finkbeiner said GWLRA plans to use EverWest as its real estate platform in the U.S., though he didn’t rule out future acquisitions.
“This is our U.S. platform, we wanted somebody that we could grow off of. This is a great place to start,” he said. “We’re going to look to them and their advice, but if we were able to find what we call a ‘bolt-on acquisition’, we might do that.
“But we have our work ahead of us right now just to integrate and get this going.
Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.
Real estate arm of Great-West Life
GWLRA is the real estate arm of insurance and investment giant Great-West Life, It has about $12.5 billion in assets under management, having grown from a company with less than a billion in assets when Finkbeiner took over about two decades ago.
EverWest has been in business for more than 20 years, though it rebranded from its original name Aliance Commercial Partners in 2014. At the time, the company said it had US$727 million in assets under management.
“We welcome the acquisition by GWL Realty Advisors as this transaction supports our vision of evolving our business to support the growing needs of domestic and international customers,” Stone said in a release announcing the sale.
“Together, we are well-positioned to meet the future needs of our mutual customers.”
The CenterCap Group, LLC acted as financial advisor to GWLRA U.S. in connection with the transaction.
EverWest’s investment properties:
* 30 Knightsbridge Rd., Piscataway, N.J.: This 686,316-square-foot office property is comprised of four connected buildings. EverWest provided mezzanine financing in July 2014;
* Regent O’Hare, Elk Grove, Ill.: EverWest acquired this industrial portfolio on behalf of a client in 2017. It consists of eight buildings totalling nearly one million square feet, with the largest single property at 531,465 square feet;
* 2208 8th Ave., Seattle: EverWest provided mezzanine financing on this to-be-built, class-A luxury residential tower in 2015. It is located next to the new 4.1-million-square-foot Amazon headquarters campus;
* Hilton Garden Inn-Union Station, Denver: This 233-unit hotel is to be built near Union Station in the downtown. It is within walking distance of Larimer Street, Coors Field and the downtown business district. EverWest closed on the preferred equity investment in late 2016.
Great-West Life Assurance, GWLRA
Founded in Winnipeg in 1891, Great-West Life is a leading Canadian insurer which, with subsidiaries London Life and Canada Life, serve the financial security needs of more than 13 million across Canada with financial and benefit plan solutions.
GWL Realty Advisors is a leading real estate investment advisor providing comprehensive asset management, property management, development and specialized real estate advisory services to pension funds and institutional clients.
GWL Realty Advisors has been a real estate investment advisor for more than 30 years, providing asset management, property management, development and specialized real estate advisory services to pension funds and institutional clients.
In 2017, GWLRA was ranked No. 1 in Canada by the Global Real Estate Benchmark, the world’s leading benchmark for evaluating and ranking the sustainability practices of real estate companies.
EverWest Real Estate Partners
EverWest Real Estate Partners is a privately held real estate investment management and operating company, whose goal is to create significant value for investors through a combination of capital appreciation, strategic acquisition, development, capitalization, repositioning, and management of commercial real estate assets.
The CenterCap Group
The CenterCap Group, LLC is a boutique investment bank providing strategic advisory, capital‐raising and consulting related services to private and public sector companies and investment managers across the real estate industry.