UBS brings in ex-Fabbri exec with plans to explore agribusiness

Darren Rabenou says a key part of the firm's future approach will include partnering with LPs on co-investments as it seeks opportunities in area including in storage, processing and agtech.

UBS Asset Management has hired former Fabbri Fund Management partner Darren Rabenou as head of food and agriculture as it plans to supplement its established farmland platform with agribusiness strategies.

Rabenou’s New York-based position is newly created and includes oversight of ESG investment strategies from UBS Real Estate and Private Markets, which includes the firm’s infrastructure and agricultural investments. Rabenou will report to the unit’s head Joseph Azelby.

“Our farmland business is our farmland business and all that’s going to do is look to continue to grow,” Rabenou told Agri Investor. “We’re just looking at ways of growing our food and agriculture franchise, which would entail both farmland and other areas of investing tied into the food sector.”

UBS currently manages $2 billion in farmland assets, including at least $955.7 million held within the open-ended UBS AgriVest Farmland Fund and separate accounts for clients including the Alaska Retirement Management Board.

Prior to assuming the role with UBS on April 1, Rabenou spent four years as managing partner of DTR Partners, which advised financial sponsors, including UBS, on US and international investing related to the permanent crop space, according his LinkedIn profile.

It shows during the same period, Rabenou also served as partner at Bakersfield, California-headquartered Fabbri Fund Management, which manages 15,000 almond, table and wine grape acres in California and Portugal on behalf of PE-backed sponsors, family offices and institutions. Previously, Rabenou served as managing director at New York-headquartered Terrapin Partners and held positions with JP Morgan Asset Management, Prudential Investments and ING Barings.

Rabenou declined to provide details on the size of any future vehicle that might be appropriate for UBS agribusiness strategies. He did clarify, however, that storage, processing, agtech and consumer products are among markets the firm might look to explore, adding that private credit strategies are also possible.

A key part of any approach, he said, is likely to include responding to LP demand for co-investments offering exposure to agricultural investments that benefit from the broader push for sustainability and technological progress.

“We think investors are looking to invest in agriculture, in size,” he said. “They are going to want to work with partners that understand the space and also work with large players. A group like ourselves, we could work with operators, existing or new farm operators, or we can work with other asset managers, because of our size.”