Boutique lender hires former Starz Real Estate originator for expansion drive

London-based Katch Investment has hired Thibaut Harouni as it makes plans for a €250m European closed-end debt fund.

London-based alternative lender Katch Investment has appointed Thibaut Harouni as investment director for its European Secured Lending Fund, as it makes plans to expand its property financing business.

Harouni, who previously held roles at manager Starz Real Estate and investment bank JPMorgan, will be responsible for originating, underwriting and executing transactions across the firm’s European business, with direct responsibility for the French market.

Katch was formed in 2018 as a private debt firm by Stephane Prigent, a former banker at State Street, BNP Paribas, and Lehman Brothers; Laurent Jeanmart, previously CIO at Bermuda-based insurer Fidelis Insurance and head of investment at private equity firms Platinum Capital Management and GLG Partners; and Pascal Rohner, who held roles at Zurich-based bank Credit Suisse. Since then, the firm has gone on to launch two real estate-focused debt vehicles with a combined loan book of €200 million.

“Harouni’s appointment is part of the firm’s expansion plan and his unique experience from credit fund managers JPMorgan and Starz Real Estate will support our scale-up plans in 2025,” Maria Ryan, managing director at Katch, told Real Estate Capital Europe. “He will begin his role on 19 February.”

Ryan explained the hire is part of the firm’s growth initiative for 2025, which could include the launch of a €250 million pan-European closed-end real estate debt fund. The firm, since 2019, has been operating open-end opportunistic real estate lending funds in the UK and continental Europe, with a focus on France, Spain and Germany.

In the UK, Katch operates a bridge-focused open-end vehicle called Katch Real Estate Lending Fund, launched in 2019, which provides first mortgage bridge and development finance up to a 24-month maturity. The fund is managed by Nick Oakley, managing director at Katch. The firm currently has a £100 million (€117 million) loan book for the fund.

The Katch European Secured Lending Fund, managed by Ryan, was launched in 2021 and focuses on first mortgage loans to professional borrowers looking to fulfil transformational business plans. The loan book is currently €120 million.

“Before you launch a closed-ended vehicle, you would usually need to have a track record, trusted investors that continuously allocate and a seed portfolio,” she said. “We already have this across both funds, and we believe more visibility, with interest rates coming down potentially, around the fundraising market will be seen in the second half of 2024.”

Through the European open-end vehicle, the firm provides three-month to three-year first lien real-estate backed loans in the small- to mid-market space, ranging from €5 million-€30 million. The loans are typically whole loan transformation or refurbishment facilities with a loan-to-cost ratio between 60-85 percent.

The firm’s loan book across both fund vehicles stands at close to €200 million, Ryan said.

“The open-ended structure helped us create a track record with investors and typically since launch we have been able to raise €60 million annually from family offices and institutional investors,” she added. “The conversation to have is whether to combine these two strategies into one closed-ended vehicle or separately managed accounts that originates all the way through the capital stack.”

Harouni will join the firm from London private equity firm Tokoro Capital, where he spent three years on the firm’s real estate private equity team. Before that, he was an associate on Starz Real Estate’s credit team for two years and was responsible for origination and underwriting of senior commercial real estate loans backed by core to value-add assets across Europe.

He also spent over a year between 2017-18 as an analyst at advisory and asset management firm AgFe, where he was responsible for investing in UK commercial real estate loans. Between 2014-16, Harouni was a senior analyst within US investment bank JPMorgan’s European real estate finance and special opportunities team.