Stephen Muller joined Kuafu Properties earlier this month as chief investment officer following a decade as a managing director in investment banking at The Greenwich Group International. Mr. Muller, 37, has 15 years experience directing and overseeing multi-billion-dollar real estate investments. In his new role he is responsible for Kuafu’s investment and financing activities, and the origination and development of new investment opportunities.
“Stephen’s track record of sourcing, underwriting, marketing and financing major mixed-use developments over the past few years is a perfect complement for Kuafu’s platform,” said Shang Dai, the chief executive officer, who first noticed Mr. Muller while looking at deals he was advising on. Impressed by his overall knowledge, Mr. Dai said Mr. Muller also possesses “those hard-to-explain qualities” that make someone a right fit at the firm that’s bringing the far east to Hudson Yards like the Hudson Rise Hotel, which is part of Kuafu’s portfolio.
Connecting Chinese capital with U.S. real estate projects, primarily in New York City, is the focus of Kuafu. Accordingly, it was at the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE) annual membership meeting in September 2014 where Muller was officially introduced.
“It became immediately evident Kuafu was a firm to take notice of,” said Mr. Muller. “Once I got to really know Shang [Dai], Denis [Zengliang Shan, chairman] and the Kuafu team it was obvious why they had the trust of so many China-based investors.” This firm is going places, he told himself.
The sentiment is clearly mutual. “The relationships [Mr. Muller] has established through the past 15 years are virtually a who’s who of global real estate contacts,” said Mr. Dai. “Stephen is comfortable in working in any environment.”
Both Mr. Dai and Mr. Muller reference The Wharf, a 3-million-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment in Washington, D.C. when considering Mr. Muller’s greatest hits. While at The Greenwich Group International, Mr. Muller co-headed the team that exclusively advised the partnership (PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette) on the transaction’s equity raise. “I was successful in structuring, marketing, and ultimately closing a $220 million investment by Canadian firm PSP Investments into this highly complex transaction,” he said.
Mr. Dai expects great things to come from Mr. Muller’s “intuitive sense of value” and background in quantitative analysis and underwriting. “His experience running the team at Greenwich for the past six years makes him invaluable for helping to run and grow the Kuafu platform.”