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Exclusive: Veteran Crooks Leaves China’s Gingko As State Fund Treads Water

Sainsbury's HQ in Holborn

European property veteran Michael Crooks has left Chinese state-backed investor Gingko Tree Investment, as Chinese investors rein back their investment in global property markets.

Crooks left his role as senior investment advisor last month and is yet to take up another role. Crooks and Gingko were unavailable for comment.

Prior to Gingko, Crooks was finance director at Stadium Developments, the U.K. company that built the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield and the CentrO Oberahusen centre in Germany.

Gingko was one of the most prolific Chinese investors in Europe during the years after the financial crisis. It built up a portfolio of assets valued at more than $5B in London, the U.K., Brussels, Austria and Germany.

High-profile investments included a 40% stake in U.K. student accommodation owner UPP, which it bought for £550M in 2013; the HQ of Sainsbury's in London bought in a joint venture with Tishman Speyer for £310M in 2014; and the purchase of the Fosse Park retail park in Leicester with the Crown Estate for £345M in 2014.

But it has not undertaken a new European acquisition since 2015, and with the current curb on outbound investment from China, that is unlikely to change soon: Gingko is the alternative investment arm of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange fund, which manages around $441B of China’s $3 trillion of foreign reserves.

Given that part of the reason for China’s investment clampdown is to control outflows of foreign reserves, the likelihood of this fund buying in the near future is slim.