NEW YORK CITY-Gramercy Capital Corp. has started a real estate securities business to focus on the acquisition, trading and financing of CMBS and real estate securities. Joseph Romano has been pegged to lead the new group, and has been appointed as a senior vice president of GKK Manager LLC.

Company executives say, “The new business line will complement Gramercy’s core lending platform by extending the duration of the company’s assets, and enabling it to obtain term financing for fixed-rate loans originated by Gramercy.” The new group will focus on investments between $500 million and $1 billion. Those investments will center on CMBS, REIT debt, credit default swaps and preferred securities, among others.

CEO Marc Holliday says, “We believe this is the right time in the company’s evolution to launch its real estate debt securities platform. Gramercy will now begin to transact within the vast market for real estate debt securities, providing a new source of earnings and enhancing the company’s lending and trading businesses. This will become a strategically important business line for Gramercy’s continued growth and industry-leading performance.”

Romano joins the group from TIAA-CREF, where he was a managing director and CMBS portfolio manager. Headquartered in New York City, he oversaw a CMBS and REIT debt portfolio worth $23 billion.

“Romano is widely regarded as one of the leading portfolio managers of real estate securities,” says COO Hugh Hall. “In addition to building the foundation for our funds management business, [Romano's] depth of experience after 10 years at TIAA-CREF will enhance Gramercy’s coverage and presence in the secondary market, strengthen our fixed-rate mortgage origination and trading effort, and establish an investment platform that we expect will provide steady returns for our shareholders.”

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