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Blackstone takes stake in ‘for profit’ housing association Sage

Blackstone’s chief executive Stephen Schwarzman becomes “a person with significant control” at Sage Housing Association.

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The largest private equity firm in the US has taken its first step into UK affordable housing with a stake in ‘for profit’ housing association Sage.

Blackstone – which is based in New York and owns the biggest home rental company in America – has taken shares in Sage Housing Association, whose registered address is Southend-on-Sea, according to Companies House.


Stephen A. Schwarzman – the chair, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone – has become “a person with significant control” of Sage, as of 21 December 2017.


The same day saw Sage issue £29.8m of ordinary shares.


A person with significant control is typically an individual who holds more than 25 per cent of shares or voting rights in a company.


The formal document does not state what proportion of shares Mr Schwarzman - who sat on Donald Trump’s business council until last year - has in Sage, but says he has “the right to exercise significant influence or control over the company”.


Devonshires Solicitors advised on the statement of capital.


Sage – which is registered in England with the Regulator of Social Housing – says it is injecting new funding into the sector by acquiring and maintaining affordable housing as part of Section 106 agreements, with an ambition “to become one of the UK’s major housing providers.”


It says it provides “a new approach to affordable housing that enhances traditional models while putting residents at the centre of our business” and is partnering with developers and managers from across the residential market, both public and private, “to increase the supply of quality affordable housing across all tenures”.


Sage adds that it is working in partnership with some of the most established registered providers, adding that “all of our homes will be managed by best in class rated registered providers with established stock in the same local authority area”. It says it also offers local authorities “full nomination rights across all tenures”.

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Blackstone’s entry into the UK affordable housing market was reported by Estates Gazette in January 2018. Inside Housing reported that Sage has been acquiring and building up a significant portfolio of s106 properties.


Sage’s chief executive is Joe Cook, former development and sales director at Bedfordshire-based non-profit housing association Aldywck Housing Group, which he joined having been commercial director for R&D Construction Group.


Aldwyck’s former chair Richard Reynolds is also on the Sage board.


The pair are also on the board of Meridian Home Start, originally launched by the Royal Borough of Greenwich and described as an ‘affordable housing solution’ for residents in Greenwich.


Some of Sage’s board and staff come from real estate and private equity firm Regis, which has a London HQ in Mayfair and says it has “extensive experience owning and managing a range of residential assets, both in the US and UK”.


The Sage leadership team also includes Syd Taylor, who is a director at Regis.


The entity that is now Sage was incorporated in 2005 and formerly called Fern Gateways, based in Bristol. It was then renamed to 180 Housing, before being renamed to Sage, when its HQ was changed to Southend on Sea.


Mr Taylor, Mr Reynolds and Mr Cook were all appointed between May and August 2017.


Both Sage HA and Blackstone declined to comment.

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