Frequent business partners Howard Lorber and Steve Witkoff have a new project, but it’s not a condo or hotel. It’s a SPAC.
The developers’ Ocean Drive Acquisition Corp. is looking to raise $250 million from investors to take a proptech startup public, according to a regulatory filing. In addition to Lorber and Witkoff, asset manager Monroe Capital is sponsoring the blank-check company.
“Technology has become a strategic imperative as [real estate] owners seek ways to increase the efficiency of their assets,” the filing said. “Our management team has specific experience and knowledge regarding the real estate industry and companies that provide technological solutions and innovation.”
Lorber and Witkoff have partnered on several high-end developments over the years. Through its New Valley subsidiary, Lorber’s Vector Group has invested in Witkoff’s condominium projects at 10 Madison Square West, 111 Murray Street and 150 Charles Street in New York. Lorber and Witkoff are also behind the 190-key, 20-condo West Hollywood Edition in Los Angeles, and the Fountainbleau Hotel in Las Vegas.
Monroe Capital, which has $9.4 billion in assets under management, also has ties to the New York development world. In December, it foreclosed on HFZ Capital’s stake in a national portfolio, which included 10 million square feet of warehouse space across the country.
For Lorber, the new blank-check company is just his most recent proptech play: Earlier this month, Vector said it was launching a venture capital arm to bet on early-stage proptech companies. New Valley Ventures’ initial bets include a minority stake in Rechat, a customer relationship manager, and investments in proptech funds, including Camber Creek.
After falling out of favor for several decades, SPACs came roaring back last year, when 248 blank-check firms went public, raising $83.3 billion.
That figure will likely be eclipsed this year — before the end of March, according to data from SPACInsider. So far this year, 246 companies have gone public, raising $78.8 billion from investors.
Monroe isn’t new to the SPAC game; the firm has previously backed three others. Thunder Bridge Acquisition, which raised $258 million, merged in July 2019 with Repay Holdings, a payment processing company. Thunder Bridge Acquisition II, which raised $345 million, struck a deal in December 2020 to take automotive startup indie Semiconductor public early this year. Earlier this month, MCAP Acquisition Corp. raised $316 million.
In addition to Lorber and Witkoff, Ocean Drive’s management team includes co-presidents Kyle Asher and Aaron Peck, two Monroe executives. Monroe’s Peter Gruszka is chief legal officer, and Monroe’s Scott Marienau is CFO. Witkoff Group’s Scott Alper is chief investment officer, and Alex Witkof, Steve’s son, is executive vice president.
The board includes James Terlizzi, chairman of DRB Capital, a settlement and annuity company; Peter Ward, former president of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council; billionaire Joseph DaGrosa; and Mark Lawrence, CEO of SpotHero.
In recent months, other real estate players have jumped on the SPAC bandwagon, including Tishman Speyer, the Chera family and Silverstein Properties’ Tal Kerret. VC funds such as Fifth Wall Ventures have also entered the fray seeking proptech deals.
SPACs generally have between 18 and 24 months to consummate a deal. Last year, home-services startup Porch.com and iBuyer Opendoor went public via SPACs. View, a smart-glass maker, began trading on Nasdaq this week after merging with a blank-check firm backed by Howard Lutnick’s Cantor Fitzgerald. Latch, a smart-lock maker, is also set to go public in a SPAC deal, along with Matterport (3D video tours), Hippo (insurance) and Doma (title insurance).
Rich Bockmann contributed reporting.