The challenges of finding a new home in Hong Kong may be too much even for top property fund managers as Savills Investment Management’s chairman and chief executive Justin O’Connor announced his resignation yesterday, just one month before he was scheduled to relocate from London to the Asian financial hub.
“I have enjoyed immensely working at Savills Investment Management and I am proud to have been part of a business which has had such strong growth over the years,” O’Connor said in a statement confirming his departure. “Savills Investment Management is well prepared for its next phase of growth and I have decided to step aside to make room for a new CEO to take the lead. I wish the business well for the future.”
The senior executive’s exit after 15 years with the fund management wing of London-based Savills PLC comes just over one month after O’Connor gave an exclusive interview to Mingtiandi regarding the challenges awaiting him as he prepared to move to Hong Kong in August as Savills IM sought to build up its Asian operation. News of O’Connor’s departure was first reported by PERE.
Former ING Exec Nick Cooper Takes Over as Chairman
With the sudden departure of its top executive Savills IM will split up leadership responsibilities with former deputy chairman Nick Cooper stepping up to chairman to cover the business on an interim basis with chief investment officer Kiran Patel adding the title of acting Global CEO to his current duties.
Cooper had taken the role of deputy chairman in January, at the same time that Savills IM had announced O’Connor’s move to Hong Kong, with O’Connor taking on the additional role of APAC CEO at the time.
Before joining Savills IM as an advisor in 2017, Cooper had been a principal of the Townsend Group and an executive director with Palmer Capital. The property investment heavyweight built his reputation as CEO of ING Real Estate before it was acquired by CBRE in 2011 and rebranded as CBRE Global Investors.
Hong Kong Relocation Never Happened
In his May interview O’Connor voiced his eagerness to take on the challenge of growing Savills IM’s approximately $2 billion in Asian assets under management to $5 billion within the next few years.
Despite the planned relocation for its then global chairman, the UK firm has always planned to keep its headquarters in London. According to public announcements, Savills Investment has done four transactions in Asia this year to date, with three in Japan and one in Australia. Last year, the company had 13 transactions in the region, of which 12 were in Japan and one in Australia.
During O’Connor’s 15 years with the firm, 12 of which were as CEO, Savills IM grew its business from approximately $1 billion in assets under management to more than $20 billion managed by 18 offices globally with five of those in Asia Pacific.