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NEW YORK CITY-Filling a position that has sat vacant for nearly four years, Richard Saltzman is joining Colony Capital as its new president, effective May 1. Saltzman comes to the firm’s New York office from Merrill Lynch & Co., where he has spent the past 22 years of his career–most recently serving as managing director and vice chairman.

Credited with introducing the modern REIT to Wall St. and helping to develop the opportunity fund concept, Saltzman is charged with utilizing his expertise to enhance Colony Capital’s current platform, according to a statement.

“I’ve got two primary objectives [at Colony]: to further their existing business line and to look at ways to expand their menu of products, whether that’s in a private equity form or in the securities business,” Saltzman tells GlobeSt.com.

Having held several positions during his tenure at Merrill Lynch, including COO of investment banking and group head of global leveraged finance, Saltzman is most recognized for his role as the principal architect, along with Sam Zell, in creating the Zell/Merrill Lynch series of opportunity funds. This venture ultimately led to the creation of Equity Office Properties. The Zell/Merrill Funds aggregated more than $3 billion of commercial real estate acquisitions from 1988 to 1996 under Saltzman’s direction.

In his new post, he will report directly to Colony Capital’s chairman and CEO, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., with whom Saltzman has a long-standing relationship. “I’ve been working with Tom since he founded the firm in 1991,” he explains, noting Merrill was an initial investor in Colony Capital.

Barrack adds that Saltzman has long been the firm’s banker, and “as part of that relationship, he spearheaded Merrill’s various equity investments in certain Colony transactions and funds. He knows the firm well, and we share a common vision on how best to position and grow Colony Capital.”

A spokesperson from Merrill Lynch tells GlobeSt.com that there are no immediate plans to replace Saltzman, and that his responsibilities will be divided between his two associates: Marty Cicco, managing director based in the Merrill’s New York office, and Mike Profenius, managing director based on London.

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