Longtime affordable housing developers may not recognize the name, but they probably know some of the people behind Centerline Capital Group.
Centerline is the new name for CharterMac, which until recently was the new name for Related Capital. The renaming represents an effort to create a single identity for a growing list of subsidiaries offering services to real estate sponsors under a variety of names.
Centerline is a subsidiary of the publicly traded Centerline Holding Co. (NYSE:CHC). It incorporates the tax credit equity syndication, credit enhancement, and direct purchase of private-placement tax-exempt bonds that many affordable housing sponsors have used in the past.
It is both a name change and a change in organizational structure, according to President and CEO Marc Schnitzer.
“We evolved into a company that operated through a series of subsidiaries, with several different brand names,” he said. “In order to simplify our story, we launched a re-branding process to learn how our brands were perceived by our customers, investors, and employees. We learned, among other things, that it is critical to operate as one company, with one brand name, and all 535 employees aligned with, and focused on, the success of that company.”
The change does not alter the firm’s overall strategy, said Schnitzer. Centerline will continue to “buy real estate investments carefully, watch them closely, and fix them immediately if they need to be fixed.”
The firm will continue to offer ”personal service and relationship-driven, industry expertise,” he added.
Affordable housing remains one of the firm’s four major business lines. The others are asset management, commercial real estate, and credit risk products.
For affordable housing developers, Centerline continues the tax credit equity syndication business that was conducted for many years under the Related Capital name.
On the market-rate side, Centerline provides a wide spectrum of financing and investment products for market-rate developers of multifamily, office, retail, industrial, and mixed-use properties. “Because we have access to a vast array of capital markets executions, we offer financing at all levels of a property’s capitalization, including equity, mezzanine capital, bridge loans, B-notes, and first-mortgage loans,” Schnitzer said.
In recent years, the firm has dramatically expanded its capabilities in debt financing for all types of real estate, and reached beyond its traditional affordable housing business to serve market-rate apartments, office, retail, and other commercial real estate.
Centerline took major steps in that direction by acquiring Capri Capital Finance, thereby entering the Fannie Mae credit enhancement business. It also acquired ARCap, which set it up to buy the subordinated, or “B” pieces, of mortgage backed securities.
Because the firm retains the B piece rather than selling it to other investors, as many Wall Street firms do, it can keep loan servicing and customer service in-house. This overcomes one of the main problems with other sources of conduit financing, which is that the group that makes the loan rarely services it.
“It offers all the benefits of securitized finance and none of the drawbacks,” said Schnitzer.
Heading up the re-branded venture as chairman of the holding company is Stephen M. Ross, who is the founder, chairman, CEO, and managing general partner of The Related Cos., L.P.
Schnitzer is another veteran of the Related Capital days, having joined Centerline’s predecessor company in 1988.
Leonard W. Cotton, who previously served as the CEO of ARCap, which was acquired by Centerline’s predecessor in 2006, serves as vice chairman.
The co-head of the Commercial Real Estate Group is Daryl J. Carter. He became part of the Centerline team when his company, Capri, was acquired by Centerline in 2005. Carter co-founded Capri in 1992.
The executive managing director and head of the Affordable Housing Group is Andrew J. Weil.
Thomas W. White is a member of the board of trustees of Centerline Holding Co. and acts as chairman of Centerline Holding Co.’s Investment Committee. He was previously a senior vice president of Fannie Mae in the multifamily activities department, where he was responsible for the development and implementation of policies and procedures for all Fannie Mae multifamily programs.