Finance  ·  Players

Nuveen Green Capital Hires Bank OZK’s Chris Lawton to Lead Originations

The industry vet will focus on C-PACE financings in his new role

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After spending eight years as a managing director at Bank OZK, Christopher Lawton has been named head of originations at Nuveen Green Capital (NGC), the clean energy lending arm of Nuveen, Commercial Observer has learned. 

Lawton will lead originations and expansion activities for NGC, which focuses on green energy financings with a focus on Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) deals. 

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He reports to Jessica Bailey, president and CEO of NGC, and his first day was Jan. 29. 

“We are thrilled to add Chris to our talented team,” Bailey said in a statement. “The C-PACE industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, and Nuveen Green Capital has continuously been at the forefront of that growth. With unprecedented opportunity in front of us, we wanted to bring on unparalleled expertise to allow us to capitalize on that potential.” 

Lawton brings to the firm “deep knowledge of commercial real estate lending and complex deal structuring,” Bailey said. “As our originations grow and our platform expands, Chris will be an integral part of our continued leadership in the market.”

Indeed, Lawton has more than two decades of CRE financing experience under his belt— so, he’s far from green in that sense. 

At Bank OZK, he was a managing director of Northeast originations for the bank’s real estate specialties group, working out of its New York office. A heavy hitter in the construction lending space in particular, the Little Rock, Ark.-headquartered bank originated $13.82 billion of loans in 2022 across all asset classes. 

Prior to joining Bank OZK, Lawton held roles at DekaBank, establishing the Germany-based bank’s first U.S. office, and Hypo Real Estate Capital, where he closed more than $4 billion of senior and mezzanine loans. He cut his teeth as an analyst with CBRE Capital Markets in 2003. 

A highly revered participant in the debt markets, Lawton closed more than $8 billion of construction and bridge loans during his time at Bank OZK, building out the bank’s loan portfolio in Boston and Philadelphia, and also forming its highly successful life sciences lending business. 

Now, he’s going green, and joining Bailey and NGC Chief Investment Officer and co-founder Alexandra Cooley at 730 Third Avenue — fittingly, a green building. 

“I am excited and honored to join Nuveen Green Capital, a company that I have admired since its beginning as Greenworks Lending, a pioneer and leader in the C-PACE Industry,” Lawton said in a statement. “I am eager to work with the talented, energetic and ambitious team, and to leverage my experience in commercial real estate finance to help drive the firm’s growth and success.”

Bank OZK officials weren’t immediately available for comment. 

Cathy Cunningham can be reached at ccunningham@commercialobserver.com.