Molpus names new timberland VP

Ashley Harris is joining the US timber manager as it raises its fifth fund with a target of $500m.

Ashley Harris

Molpus Woodlands Group has hired Ashley Harris to serve as vice-president of timberland investments.

Harris joins the Jackson, Mississippi-headquartered timber investment manager after about 15 years as a partner with Adams and Reese, a law firm with offices in Washington, DC and throughout the US south-east. At Adams and Reese, Harris focused on forestry, real estate and financing transactions, including representing timberland management companies in the sale of more than eight million acres of timberland.

Harris will source acquisitions and oversee closing processes for Molpus. President Bob Lyle said the firm had worked with Harris for about 15 years and that he enjoyed a good reputation in the market.

“Ashley’s extensive networks in the industry will be invaluable in identifying properties that we believe will meet our client’s investment objectives,” said Lyle.

According to the Adams and Reese website, Harris’s practice focused on timberland acquisitions of between 20 and three million acres, arranging credit facilities of between $100,000 and $1 billion, as well as mergers and acquisitions across industries. Transactions Harris played a role in include the sale of 1.8 million acres of timberland across Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington; advising an unnamed TIMO on its purchase of 91,000 acres of mature pine saw timberland; and a REIT’s purchase of 60,000 acres of timberland in Texas.

Fundraising effort

Molpus was founded in 1996 and manages 2.1 million acres of timberland across 18 US states. Last month, the firm secured a 26,000-acre portfolio of south-east timberland for an unnamed client.

It is currently raising its fifth vehicle after surpassing a $500 million target to close its fourth fund on $662.5 million in October 2014. The firm had raised $116.4 million toward a $500 million target and has employed Eaton Partners as a placement agent for the vehicle, according to a March regulatory filing.

Investors in the fifth fund include the $475 million City of Aurora General Employees Retirement Plan and the $1.6 billion Tallahassee City Pension.

Aurora administrator Thomas Connell told Agri Investor in February that it had been an investor in two previous Molpus vehicles.

“One of the reasons that we’ve continued to invest with them is their expertise in sourcing deals and being aware of opportunities that may not hit the public market,” Connell said.