Yet another connection between Canada and Denver was established Friday with the acquisition of Denver-based EverWest Real Estate Partners by GWL Realty Advisors, the real estate arm of Toronto-based insurance company Great-West Life.
Together, the firms intend to build an international real estate presence starting with a combined CDN $14.5 billion in assets. The move is the first into U.S. real estate for GWL.
It was all about culture, Paul Finkbeiner, the chief executive of GWL Real Estate Advisors, told CoStar News.
“We find the people are a lot like us. We negotiate the same. We think the same. We just found culturally this was a good fit,” said Finkbeiner. “It’s also a good mix of people down there. They really do understand the nuts and bolts of real estate.”
GWL, a subsidiary of CDN $34 billion insurance giant Great-West Life, had been looking for a deal for “a while” he said, before pulling the trigger on a CDN $2 billion (USD $1.6 billion) transaction to buy EverWest.
“We see a lot of capital going to the U.S., and therefore our clients are going to the U.S. so, therefore, it only makes sense to start looking at that,” said Finkbeiner, whose real estate advisory company owns and manages $12.5 billion in assets in Canada and $2 billion in the U.S. after the latest deal.
For its part, EverWest was “not for sale” when GWL came knocking, said Rick Stone, CEO of EverWest. But eventually it became clear that company culture and goals lined up, and that the acquisition made sense on both sides.
EverWest, which has a 20-year record of real estate advisory experience through its predecessor companies and manages a real estate portfolio of office, industrial and multi-residential assets in key U.S. markets, immediately becomes GWL’s platform in America, but will retain its name and branding in the U.S. Additionally, EverWest’s leadership team will remain in place.
EverWest manages a portfolio that spans industrial, office and multifamily, and has a structured finance group. It maintains offices in several states and owns properties across the country. In metro Denver, the company recently broke ground on Ascent Westminster, a multifamily project.
Nationwide, EverWest employs about 60 people, Stone said, and that pool of real estate professionals was attractive to GWL.
“They just have a deeper real estate team, and that was part of the real estate acquisition,” Finkbeiner said. “We had to grow our presence through this vehicle, but we want to create some sort of U.S. fund so that Canadians can invest and U.S. pensions can invest.”
While the acquisition gives GWL an established foothold in U.S. real estate, EverWest can benefit from the resources of a company six times its size, Stone said.
The acquisition is the latest in a series of developments that have established connective tissue between Canadian cities and metro Denver.
In 2016, Ontario-based Stantec Inc., said it would acquire Broomfield-based MWH Global Inc., and in 2017, Stantec purchased Denver architecture and design firm RNL Design.
On the real estate side, Toronto-based First Gulf in 2017 completed the development of 1401 Lawrence, a 22-story office tower in downtown Denver, and Bentall Kennedy, also based in Toronto, purchased an office building in the Denver Tech Center for $52.4 million in October.
The U.S. overall is a popular target for Canadian capital in recent years, and for now, GWL will keep its expansion focused on the United States.
“At some point, we might look at the United Kingdom and Europe. The U.S. is a big market,” Finkbeiner said.
Editor’s Note: CoStar Toronto Market Reporter Garry Marr contributed to this report.