Chera family goes SPAC shopping

Retail giant is latest to join IPO craze

Isaac and Richard Chera 
Isaac and Richard Chera

One of New York’s biggest retail owners is going shopping — with a blank check.

The Chera family’s Crown Acquisitions is raising $200 million for a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that is focused on proptech, according to a regulatory filing.

Crown PropTech Acquisitions will look to acquire a startup with “innovative software, hardware, products, operations or services that are technology-driven and enhance the value of the infrastructure or property ownership,” the filing said. Ideally, the firm will merge with a business that intersects with industries beyond real estate.

Read more

Crown, which owns one of New York’s biggest retail empires, was founded by the late Stanley I. Chera, who died in April 2020. Isaac and Richard Chera, two of Stanley’s sons, run the company. Their brother, Haim, moved over to Vornado when Crown acquired a 24 percent stake in the real estate investment trust’s retail portfolio. Crown also has a brokerage arm, Crown Retail Services.

Crown benefited from the city’s retail boom of the mid 2010s, leaving it exposed to retail’s subsequent downturn. After the Gap did not pay rent at 170 Broadway, Crown defaulted on the $70 million mortgage covering the retail condo at the Financial District property.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Along with CEO Richard Chera, the SPAC’s management team includes Rasheq Zarif, lead strategic advisor, who is also a managing director at Deloitte Consulting, and Pius Sprenger, its CFO, a former executive at Cantor Fitzgerald and Deutsche Bank.

RBC Capital Markets is underwriting the offering.

Blank-check firms made a comeback last year, and a growing number are circling proptech startups.

PropTech Investment Corp., headed by former Abu Dhabi Investment Authority executives Tom Hennessy and Joe Beck, was an early entrant. Their first SPAC took public last year, and their second SPAC is in the market for an acquisition.

Tishman Speyer and CBRE also have SPACs, as does Howard Lutnick and Cantor Fitzgerald, whose SPAC plans to merge with View, the SoftBank-backed smart glass maker. (SoftBank has its own SPAC, for that matter.)

This week, proptech VC firm Fifth Wall Ventures filed plans to raise $250 million for its own blank-check firm.