As of December 2016, the global private equity firm Thor Equities, LLC has an international portfolio of more than 160 properties valued at greater than $10 billion. Two-thirds of Thor Equities properties are in New York, which is also where the company is headquartered. The 30-year-old company is a premier name in the major urban real estate markets, but it started from much more humble roots.
Founder Joseph J. Sitt launched what would become Thor Equities in 1986 after buying a piece of property in the Bronx at a tax auction. Sitt thought the destitute neighborhoods of New York's poorer districts were ignored by major retail real estate groups, leaving a huge opportunity for the right investors. He picked the name "Thor" in honor of his favorite comic books; Sitt particularly like the thought of Thor as a protector of cities.
In 1991, Sitt complemented his low-income building structure with a plus-size female clothing outlet. He named the store Ashley Stewart (combining the names Laura Ashley and Martha Stewart), targeting African-American populations and hired almost exclusively from that demographic. He sold his clothing business after ten years when Ashley Stewart grew to 380 stores in more than 100 urban centers. He used the proceeds to greatly expand Thor Equities' portfolio.
One of Thor's most advertised features is vertical integration among its divisions. Prominently located on its official website is a visual, integrated platform, which stacks the company's asset management, legal team, property management, leasing and sales marketing, development/construction, and land ownership teams. The all-inclusive model is designed to reduce transaction costs and speed up deal-making, ostensibly offering investors larger returns more quickly.
Executive Staff and Investment Team
Sitt remains president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Thor Equities, though it is just one of his many professional titles. He is chief executive of Thor Retail Advisors, chairman of the luxury services firm TOWN Residential, managing principal of Thor Urban Property Funds, and is in charge of other Thor subsidiaries as well. He also founded and chairs Global Gateway Alliance, a non-profit designed to rebuild the aging infrastructure in the Northeast.
Chief financial officer (CFO) Mike Schurer joined Thor Equities in January 2008 after holding the same position with The Lightstone Group, Grand Heritage Hotel Group, Humphrey Hospitality Trust and Crown Golf Properties. Melissa Gliatta was named Thor's new chief operating officer (COO) Thor in 2016 after serving as executive vice president since 2010.
Executive vice president and head of capital markets Talia Zapolanski is a more recent addition, joining the firm in June 2015 following an 11-year stint at JP Morgan Private Bank. Another new addition is David Burke, the head of European asset management, who joined the team in January 2016.
Covered Asset Classes
Thor Equities only invests in one subsector: major urban real estate. After starting in low-income retail buildings, Thor spread to include luxury properties, affluent commercial centers, hotels, mixed-use assets and select suburban real estate.
Fundamentally, Thor Equities is a value engineering property investor. This means identifying assets with higher potential rents than are currently realized; for example, Thor Equities may determine a residential complex could command higher prices per room if existing management only reduced costs and focused more intently on renter satisfaction.
As of 2016, Thor lists cities in 11 countries as its desired locations for future acquisitions. Notable American cities include New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Brooklyn. Foreign cities include Montreal, Vienna, Rome, Mexico City, London, Munich, Paris, Berlin and Stockholm.
Thor offers opportunities to individual and institutional investors, but with some caveats. Institutional products include the Thor Urban Property Fund, a multibillion-dollar pool aimed at value-adding improvements to retail centers.
As is true with most private equity companies, Thor explicitly targets high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and accredited investors. Qualifying individuals can invest in real estate funds that target global gateway cities, which means high traffic and growing populations.
In March 2015, Sitt announced plans to launch Invest Thor, an ambitious crowdfunding campaign. The platform is designed to take advantage of relaxed private equity contribution regulations built into the JOBS Act, which passed in 2012 and was approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2013.