BentallGreenOak Hires Abbe Franchot Borok to Lead Debt Business

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BentallGreenOak (BGO) has hired Abbe Franchot Borok to lead its U.S debt business, the firm announced today. 

In her new role, Borok will lead BGO’s U.S. debt business in its entirety, including the management of all core, core-plus and high-yield debt strategies as well as the platform’s business development strategies. 

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“BGO is a leading global real estate asset management platform,” Borok told Commercial Observer today. “We have over $62 billion in assets under management, including an existing $16 billion debt book, so I’m excited to add to that success by building a multifaceted debt platform in the U.S. We’re committed to this business for the long term, and BGO’s global reach as well as the local presence it has in U.S. markets made this a really great opportunity for me.” 

Borok’s first day at the helm was May 17. 

“One thing that really attracted me to the role was the strength of BGO’s reputation, not only as an investor and asset manager, but also in its commitment to ESG,” Borok added. “The level of that commitment is unique in the industry and I’m proud to join such a forward-thinking organization whose values really align with my own views on that.” 

Borok has more than a decade of experience in commercial real estate capital markets and investment under her belt. Most recently, she was head of commercial real estate and debt strategies at Amherst Capital Management, where she launched and managed two  investment vehicles and oversaw capital markets activity across the company’s debt and equity businesses. Prior to Amherst, she was a senior member of CapitalSource’s (now Pacific Western Bank) lending team in New York City. 

Leveraging her significant expertise in sourcing and underwriting transitional commercial real estate debt, Borok will continue to focus on debt investments up and down the capital stack at BGO, with a specific focus on value-add and opportunistic business plans. 

“On the lending side, our short- and long-term goal is to provide flexible and innovative financing solutions up and down the capital stack,” Borok said. “We’re focused on helping real estate sponsors across the U.S. execute business plans and create value. We want to be partners with our borrowers, and capitalize on the expertise that the BGO U.S. equity team has across so many U.S. markets.” 

As the industry adapts to accommodate changes in real estate use and demand trends post-COVID, it’s a busy and exciting time to be a transitional lender, Borok added. 

As such, there’s no such thing as a typical transaction today. 

“One thing that’s so interesting about our business is there’s such a variety in the type of transactions we see, from a property level, business plan execution level and just looking at capital stacks. So, it’s hard to characterize an overall theme of the opportunities we’re seeing today,” Borok said. “Acquisition activity is picking up, however, so we’re seeing more flow in that segment of the market, and there are more instances where borrowers need recapitalization proceeds or a more creative financing solution — and we can certainly be constructive there.” 

Borok describes the BGO debt platform as opportunistic in its approach to the senior and suubordinate lending opportunities currently crossing her desk. “Our pipeline is very full, and we’re seeing a strong flow of transactions in the market,” she said. In terms of asset classes, BGO is focused on the “main food groups” as well as some of the more niche asset classes that are now more widely accepted by institutional investors coming out of COVID — for example, cold storage and life sciences. 

“We’re very aware that some asset classes have performed well, such as industrial, logistics and multifamily, and we’re pursuing those opportunities,” Borok said. “But, given BGO’s expertise, we can also help borrowers on office, hotel and retail assets. We’re being prudent in how we approach those opportunities and assess execution risk, but we’re also able to be flexible.” 

As for markets, Borok has her eyes on high-growth secondary markets in the Sun Belt and Southeast regions, but she’s also a big proponent of her home base, New York City. “We’re being selective [on lending opportunities here], but I’m a long-term believer in New York and its draw for the talent base that many companies are looking for.” 

Now that Borok has taken the reins in her new role, she’s focused on expanding her team and getting down to business. “We’re intent on having a vertically integrated platform, just as BGO has across its various other investment strategies.” 

“Abbe brings a well-established and respected track record of success in the commercial real estate debt sector. She brings creativity and valuable strategic capacity to a fast-growing business for BGO and we are eager to have Abbe lead our team of dedicated professionals in the U.S.,” Jim Blakemore, managing partner and global head of debt at BentallGreenOak, said in the announcement.

Borok holds an MBA from Columbia University and a BA in communications from the University of Pennsylvania. A member of CREFC’s board of governors, she most recently serving as co-chair of the High Yield & Distressed Realty Assets (HYDRA) Forum. Committed to promoting and supporting the advancement of other women in commercial real estate, Borok serves on the mentorship committee for the New York Women Executives in Real Estate’s WX.