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June 19, 2019  

Westwood Alumnus On Track for Big Launch

A former top executive at Westwood Holdings has lined up at least $150 million for the launch of a long-only vehicle.

Mark Freeman, who previously ran the multi-asset investment team at the $16 billion Westwood, plans to begin trading on July 1 from his newly formed Socorro Asset Management of Dallas. Day-one limited partners include a Texas endowment and a family office that invests the fortune of the late real estate developer Fred Trammell Crow.

Socorro is attracting attention from investors in part because of Freeman’s background at Dallas-based Westwood, a publicly traded investment manager where he spent two decades. Another lure: Socorro is offering a founders share class that will charge a discounted management fee equal to 0.5-0.8% of assets annually, depending on the size of the commitment, and no performance fee. The founders class is available to investors who get in before the fund reaches $250 million of assets.

The fund’s liquidity terms also are favorable: monthly redemptions with no lockup period.

Freeman plans to take long positions in a range of assets including stocks, investment-grade corporate debt and royalty trusts. That’s essentially the same strategy he ran at Westwood, where he oversaw a team of six investment professionals. Socorro’s fund won’t employ leverage.

Freeman will be assisted by two senior analysts: former Citadel portfolio manager Kyle Gavin and Dean Dillard, a healthcare-sector specialist who most recently worked at USAA.

Overseeing operations at Socorro is Dawn Blankenship, previously director of investor relations at now-shuttered Dallas fund shop Brenham Capital. Blankenship has hired former Hayman Capital staffer Karen Pittman as Socorro’s controller.

Freeman and Blankenship are in New York this week meeting with prospective investors including family offices.

Freeman left Westwood in March. He was replaced as head of the multi-asset team by Adrian Helfert, who previously oversaw some $10 billion of investments at Paris-based asset manager Amundi.

Westwood, led by chief executive Brian Casey, offers a range of investment strategies to its nearly 400 clients, including U.S. value equity, emerging-market equity, liquid alternatives and “liquid real assets” via shares of master limited partnerships. The firm’s stock price has fallen by more than half in the past 18 months, from nearly $70 to less than $30. The Dow Jones Asset Managers Index fell 27% in 2018, but is up 16% year-to-date.