Bridge Lender Aims For Wider Reach

Ardent Financial is taking steps to expand its bridge-lending program.

The unit of Atlanta-based Ardent Cos. has traditionally pursued debt and preferred-equity investments in construction projects, redevelopments and transitional properties. But now the investment manager also wants to target value added, core-plus and opportunistic plays involving more stabilized properties, said newly hired managing director Christopher Kelly.

After four years at bridge lender Amherst Capital, Kelly came aboard this week to spearhead the initiative. Based in New York, he reports to Ardent chief executive Matthew Shulman.

“We want to expand our product line to reach a broader group of institutional borrowers and investors,” Kelly said.

Since its formation in 2015, Ardent Financial has raised capital mostly from wealthy individuals and family offices. Without using a placement agent, the firm has taken in $205 million of equity for its latest investment vehicle, Ardent Financial Fund 3. Investors are hearing the fund is on track to reach its $250 million equity goal by the end of March. The marketing campaign for Ardent’s next fund could begin in the second quarter.

The average size of Ardent’s bridge loans is about $15 million. “We’ve been growing at a pretty good clip, both in our ability to raise capital and in originations,” said managing director Daniel Siegel, who oversees investments. “Having Chris [Kelly] here will help even more by expanding our market coverage.”

Kelly was a managing director and head of commercial real estate originations at Amherst, a New York investment manager that was launched in 2015 as a joint venture between BNY Mellon and Amherst Holdings. In 2018, BNY converted its majority stake in the joint venture into a minority interest in Amherst Holdings.

Kelly previously held a similar post at CapitalSource, a commercial-mortgage unit of Pacific Western Bank. He worked at Natixis and Lehman Brothers before that.

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