Carlyle hires AllianceBernstein’s Cozzi for real estate debt expansion

The debt specialist will lead a new dedicated strategy to invest in real estate credit opportunities globally.

US alternative asset manager The Carlyle Group has hired Roger Cozzi, the former chief investment officer for real estate debt at US manager AllianceBernstein, to the newly created role of head of real estate credit, as it seeks to expand in a space where it sees increased opportunities and strong investor interest.

Through its global credit platform, Carlyle has invested around $1 billion in real estate credit since 2017, but it is now launching a dedicated strategy to continue deploying capital into the asset class globally, according to an internal memo seen by Real Estate Capital.

“Given the increase in opportunities we are seeing and given growing investor interest in this asset class, we believe now is the right time for us to pursue a dedicated strategy focused specifically on this area,” Mark Jenkins, Carlyle’s head of global credit, said in the memo.

Carlyle’s build-out of its global real estate credit strategy is part of its plans to grow its overall global credit platform which, being invested across liquid, illiquid and real asset credit strategies, has more than doubled in assets under management globally over the past five years.

In a video presentation during Carlyle’s 2021 investor day, which took place on 23 February, Jenkins said the global credit platform’s AUM had risen from $26 billion in 2015 to $56 billion by 31 December 2020. He also unveiled the firm’s plans to continue scaling its credit business to more than $80 billion by 2024, “by focusing on strong sector tailwinds”.

Jenkins said: “Beyond scaling our existing strategies, we will look to extend to new scenarios where we would exploit the one Carlyle advantage. Real estate credit is an area we currently invest in, out of our illiquid strategies, but we are preparing to launch this dedicated strategy.”

Cozzi has been appointed to create a platform that invests in real estate credit across the capital structure and risk-return spectrum, according to the memo. Cozzi, who will be based in New York, will report to Alex Popov, head of Carlyle’s illiquid credit business.

Prior to AllianceBernstein, Cozzi served in a series of executive-level real estate finance roles at US real estate company Gramercy Capital Corp, now Gramercy Property Trust. He previously worked at Fortress Investment Group, iStar Financial, Starwood Capital Group and Goldman Sachs.

Phil Moore, a managing director in Carlyle’s credit opportunities team in London, will join Cozzi in building out the new strategy, while continuing to invest in opportunistic and illiquid credit, according to the memo. Moore has been leading real estate deals within Carlyle’s illiquid credit business since joining the company in 2018.

“Both Roger and Phil are seasoned executives with the right experience to execute our plans and eventually expand the team over time,” said Jenkins in the memo.