- February 24, 2024
As a primary investment vehicle of the descendants of Barron Gift Collier, an early 20th Century advertising magnate and at one time the largest landowner in Florida — Collier County is named after him — it’s no surprise that Halstatt LLC has a tremendous portfolio.
But Halstatt’s current leadership says its greatest asset and resources aren’t the dozens of real estate properties the company holds or the companies supported by equity stakes, loans or venture capital.
Instead, what differentiates Halstatt from other investment firms are the numerous partners that the Naples-based firm has worked with in the nearly 30 years since it was formed to develop the Grey Oaks Country Club, also in Naples.
“Our partners have a lot to do with our overall outlook,” says Katherine “Katie” Sproul, Halstatt’s CEO and Baron Collier’s great-granddaughter. “More than who can provide capital, what we look for are people who are smart, people with the same values. We like to find people we can grow with.”
Sproul notes that partnerships have been a part of Halstatt’s foundation nearly from its creation, when her mother, Juliet “Judy” Sproul, set out to develop the Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples on land her father had given her in a trust.
Perhaps most notably, a decade after its formation Halstatt joined forces with Noble House to redevelop and resurrect the LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, also in Naples.
In 2015, the resort was sold to Pebblebrook Hotel Trust for $185.5 million, one of the largest hospitality trades in Southwest Florida history.
Halstatt began following a family trip to the Austrian town of the same name — they omitted the second “L” — when the Sproul women decided to become more proactive investors.
“We realized that our family office, if it was part of a multibillion fund, was not at the top of anyone’s call list,” says Sproul, who joined the family-owned business in 1999.
“We couldn’t just call up and ask ‘what’s happening with this?’ so we decided that we wanted to have more control over what we were doing,” says Sproul, who adds that earning a Master’s degree in Business Administration heightened her confidence in understanding investments and asset management. “And with Halstatt, we can really have an impact and do cool things and have fun at the same time.”
The company’s investments accelerated beginning in 2008, when Patrick George, a Harvard-trained former partner at Florida Gulfshore Capital, joined the company. Today he is chief investment officer.
“Our investments, the opportunity has to be in a market we understand, with conservative expectations on returns, but really we focus on people, and that stems from the Sproul family and the long relationships they’ve built and the importance they place on their name and putting their credibility behind the right people," George says.
Through a series of three private equity funds known as Halstatt Real Estate Partners Fund I, II and III, the company and its investment partners have acquired office buildings, apartment complexes, retail centers, waterfront condos and backed student housing throughout Florida.
“They’re great partners to have,” says Greg Williams, a principal and co-founder of Cardinal Point Management LLC, a Tampa Bay-based real estate investment firm, which began buying properties with Halstatt in late 2012.
Most notably, the pair acquired a four-building office portfolio in the 432-acre Carillon Park business hub, in St. Petersburg, containing more than 430,000 square feet.
Together, they made a series of improvements and sold the properties in late 2015.
“They’ve helped us execute larger transactions than we could on our own, but more importantly, how they do business is accretive to every investment they make,” adds Williams, who met Halstatt through the Miami office of then-commercial real estate brokerage firm HFF.
“They have a great team in place, and they’re real problem solvers.”
Halstatt’s third and most recent fund, which has backed student housing being developed in Orlando and Tampa, has roughly $65 million yet to be deployed, says Robert “Bobby” Sullivan, Halstatt Real Estate Partners’ managing principal. It launched in 2018.
“Our investment thesis with the third fund has been to find value-add and stabilized assets that aren’t so susceptible to volatility,” Sullivan says. “It’s why we’ve shied away from traditional residential properties and decided to deploy capital into student housing, which we perceive to be more defensive in nature.”
A fourth fund, which will likely contain more than $150 million in equity, is slated to launch sometime in 2021.
Sproul says that while Halstatt puts a premium on environmentally sensitive projects and on giving back to the communities it operates in, the company also is guided by traditional investment goals, too.
“Our mission is to invest capital in a responsible way to achieve high returns and pass the company on to the next generation better than it came to us,” she says.
“We know we can’t compete with $50 billion funds, but investments of $5 million to $30 million is a nice slot for us. It’s a section of the market that has had traditionally less competition.”
In all, Sproul says Halstatt’s real estate investments, private equity injections, corporate loans, sponsored buyouts and venture capital infusions total in excess of $1 billion.
It’s far beyond the relatively humble beginnings Halstatt’s first fund had when it launched in 2011 in search of distressed assets and departed from the family’s practice of typically using only its own capital to finance deals.
Then, six partners came together to leverage $90 million on Florida investments.
“This family has seen, and lived, Florida’s ups and downs for decades, and their long-term belief is that Florida will be in demand, and they’ve put their money behind that belief,” says Sullivan.
Many of the properties acquired in Halstatt Real Estate Partners’ first two funds — which raised $120 million and $165 million, respectively — have since been disposed of, per the company’s business models.
And while several new partners have been added over the years, many have stayed on through each of the trio of individual funds.
But for Halstatt’s fourth, pending fund, Sullivan says the partnerships may expand beyond Florida into Mid-Atlantic and other Southeast states, possibly even into Texas.
Sproul notes that the company has changed and expanded in important ways beyond the size of its portfolio, as well.
“We’ve diversified tremendously,” says Sproul, a member of the University of Florida’s real estate advisory board. “We started out focusing on real estate investments, and now we’ve involved in venture capital and a host of other things, and there are 18 people in our office now.”
But although much has evolved over the past two decades, Halstatt’s “ethos” — “do what you say, with honesty and integrity, give back to the community and be entrepreneurial” — remains unchanged.
So has its commitment to the people it works with, its partners and family.
“We have amassed a great collection of smart, talented, humble and creative people,” Sproul says. “I have a lot of respect for our team. And one of the nicest things about working for a family company is that you know who you’re working for.
“That’s partly why giving back is so important to us,” she adds. “My mother certainly set the bar really high in that regard. She’s been involved in so many things in our community and had such a great impact.”
Over the course of the next decade, Sproul hopes Halstatt will continue to grow and perhaps bring in members of the family’s next generation — seven in all — into the corporate fold.
“I hope our spirit of being entrepreneurial continues and we continue to strive to do good things and new things and be successful,” she says. “As for the next generation, nothing is going to be handed to them but it would be terrific if at least some of them joined us.”