Preston takes over as CEO of Grosvenor(2)

Mark Preston succeeds Jeremy Newsum as chief executive officer of British property group Grosvenor, owned by the Duke of Westminster. Preston was former head of the firm’s UK operations and fund management business.

Mark Preston has officially taken over as chief executive officer of Grosvenor following the departure of Jeremy Newsum after more than two decades at the helm of the British property group.

Preston, former head of the firm’s British and Irish operations and fund management arm, was first announced as Newsum’s successor in December last year. In a statement this week, Grosvenor said Preston had taken over all group responsibilities as of July 1. Newsum said he was moving on to the “next phase” of his career.

Preston is succeeded as chief executive of Grosvenor Britain and Ireland by Peter Vernon, Grosvenor’s former executive director for London, according to the statement.

The Grosvenor group controls approximately 300 acres of prime central London real estate including vast swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia. Primarily a development and property management firm, Grosvenor, in 2005, branched out into fund management. In 2006, it went on to buy asset manager Legg Mason Real Estate to help boost its fund management presence in North America and Canada.

Last year, the firm closed its Grosvenor Residential Investment Partners fund on $100 million (€64 million), but opted to postpone deploying capital from the fund owing to the credit crisis.

Speaking to PERE in May, Grosvenor US president Doug Callantine said the real estate market – although not at the bottom in relation to re-pricing – was “getting close to bottom,” allowing the firm to actively search for deals. The fund will focus on residential land acquisitions, in particular providing equity to developers and homebuilders. Callantine said at the time he expected the fund to be fully invested over the next 12 months.

Grosvenor, which is owned by the Grosvenor family, headed by the sixth Duke of Westminster, has almost £13 billion ($25.8 billion; €16.5 billion) in property assets under management. According to the firm’s annual report, Grosvenor’s fund management arm had £3.1 billion of funds under management at the end of 2007, focused primarily on the UK and office sectors. The firm had more than 60 investors in 20 funds and separate investor accounts, it added.

In the annual report, Grosvenor also said it planned to close its first China fund, the value-added Grosvenor Vega China Retail Fund, later this year with a target of $500 million. The fund is investing in China retail malls and retail-focused mixed-use projects in core cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and second-tier cities such as Tianjin, Chengdu and Nanjing. The firm is also planning to launch the Grosvenor New York Multifamily Fund this year.