Middle East PE group buys Universal Blvd office bldg, plans more in tourism corridor

Highlighted in blue is the Atrium Tower property at 7680 Universal Blvd., which was acquired as part of a new investment portfolio managed by a Middle Eastern private equity group.
Highlighted in blue is the Atrium Tower property at 7680 Universal Blvd., which was acquired as part of a new investment portfolio managed by a Middle Eastern private equity group. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

A private equity firm with roots in the Middle East paid $15.38 million on March 30 for an office building on Universal Boulevard, and will continue fulfilling a PE portfolio focused on Central Florida this year while preparing statewide investment plans for 2017, a principal with the group told GrowthSpotter.

Located at 7680 Universal Blvd., the Atrium Tower building features 114,024 gross square feet across six floors, and was built in 1985.


It was bought by Prime Universal LLC, an affiliate of Prime Holdings, a PE fund established to fulfill an investment portfolio in Central Florida by Khaled Rasekh, a commercial real estate broker who holds the master franchisee license in the Middle East and North Africa for ERA Real Estate, part of the Realogy Franchise Group.

Partnering with Rasekh in the Prime Holdings investment fund is Waleed Zaki, president and CEO of Pioneers Holding Co. based in Egypt, which specializes in market research and brokerage, and has a real estate investment arm.

With companies in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman and more Middle Eastern countries, Rasekh and Zaki have established a private equity network that over the past two years has acquired five commercial properties in Greater Orlando (four office, one retail strip).

They're now in the process of raising a new, larger PE fund over the next few months that will be focused on Central Florida investment, Rasekh said.

"We're interested in B-level properties and are not really seeking office anymore, just retail and multi-family," Rasekh said. "Long term, we're looking at seven- to 10-year holding periods, and seeking property that needs some upgrades."

Looking forward, the I-Drive tourism corridor will be a focal submarket in 2016 for Rasekh and his partners, who are currently negotiating two retail and multi-family residential properties in that submarket for purchase, he said.

The group is also entertaining the idea of forming a new Real Estate Investment Trust later this year that would focus on investments throughout Florida in 2017, Rasekh said.

Ninety-three percent occupied at time of sale, the 30-year-old building on Universal Boulevard will receive a number of cosmetic upgrade investments in the coming months to push it from a "B" property to a "B+" in leasing terms, Rasekh said. About 3,500 square feet is available now for lease, with another 5,000 square feet expected to open up next month.

The Universal Boulevard office property was last purchased by Atrium Universal LLC for $7.65 million in January 2014. Atrium Universal was created by a local group of investors that includes A. David Bates and Sam Oswald, partner with Oswald & Scott, P.A.

Oswald declined to comment Monday on what his investment group's next steps would be for proceeds from the sale.

The buyer, Prime Universal, sourced an $11.535 million loan from IberiaBank to finance the Atrium Tower acquisition.

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