Nuveen announced in May that Christopher Lipton had joined GreenWood as head of timberland investments in a Portland, Oregon-based position that will see him report to Westchester CEO Martin Davies.
Lipton told Agri Investor that GreenWood, which already manages a global portfolio of more than 700,000 acres, plans to become “quite a bit” bigger. He declined to provide more detail on the scale of the effort and said future expansion would likely focus on the firm’s established core geographies of North and South America.
“We have a strong presence in Latin America, which gives us a differentiating factor to be able to grow there” he added.
Lipton joins GreenWood after a nearly two-year stint as managing director for timberland mergers and acquisitions at Hancock Natural Resource Group and five years as head of global transactions and asset management at BTG Pactual Timberland Investment Group, according to his LinkedIn profile.
It also shows that prior to those Atlanta-based positions, Lipton also served in Portland, Oregon as general manager and chief forester for Weyerhaeuser Columbia Timberlands and Camas, Washington-headquartered Longview Timber Corp.
Lipton said his role with BTG involved both sales related to a then-recent large acquisition and expansion into new markets through individual deals. That experience, he said, in addition to a long history on the operational side of timber investments, will inform his approach to his new position with GreenWood.
Lipton noted increased attention on ESG and carbon sequestration has heightened interest in forestry among institutional investors. He added GreenWood is in the process of developing a strategy related to carbon sequestration and declined to share further detail.
There have not been significant changes, he added, in the return expectations of institutional timber investors, which he said have generally remained at about between 6 and 8 percent annual returns.
“In North America, timberland has been heavily institutionally managed for a very long time so opportunities to find outsized returns are difficult, to say the least,” Lipton said. “A lot of what’s happening here is the investors’ expectations are more or less the same on return, but they are looking to the ESG/carbon component as an added benefit to their timberland investments.”
Portland, Oregon-headquartered GreenWood was founded in 1998 and sold a stake majority stake to TIAA in 2012. As of December 2020, it managed $1.3 billion in timber assets located in North America, Latin America, Europe through vehicles including the GreenWood Tree Farm Fund, Lewis & Clark Timberlands, Renewable Timber Europe and others.
Its investors include the TIAA General Account and third-party public and corporate pension plans, endowments, foundations, family offices and high-net-worth individuals.