Heavy Hitters Bankroll Former Countrywide President's Distressed Mortgage Play
The latest big name to get back into subprime is none other than Stanford Kurland, Countrywide's former president and COO -- Kurland leads a group of well-heeled industry execs headlining a new distressed mortgage purchaser/servicer, named the Private National Mortgage Acceptance Company, LLC. That's PennyMac for short, in an interesting play on GSE nomenclature. The name play might be more than coincidental: PennyMac intends to purchase distressed residential mortgage loans (likely mostly subprime) for pennies on the dollar, entering a space that's quickly becoming hot on both the whole loan and ABS side of the market: distressed assets. Firms have been lining up on the secondary market side to snap up MBS and related assets -- see Housing Wire's earlier report -- but this represents the first major player to step into the whole loan side of the business to make a similar play. The new venture has some serious heavyweights backing it as well, in the form of private equity firms BlackRock, Inc. and Highfields Capital Management, according to a press release put out on Monday. "We are pleased to sponsor PennyMac, a company that seeks to bring patient capital to the unprecedented distress in residential mortgages," said Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock chairman and CEO. "Stan Kurland and his team have enormous talent and experience in the mortgage business, making them well equipped to develop effective solutions for sellers of mortgage assets and homeowners alike." The company's business model sure sounds familiar to anyone that's been in the industry for a meaningful period of time: buy distressed assets, try to rehab them -- and if rehab isn't an option, foreclose as expeditiously and cost-effectively as possible. That's the model employed with great success until recently by firms such as Franklin Credit and C-BASS. But Kurland said that PennyMac has something neither of the aforementioned firms possessed: market timing and a clean slate. "PennyMac’s strategy is to avoid foreclosures, and instead restructure the loans of struggling borrowers so they can continue paying and stay in their homes," he said. "As a specialty servicer without the burden of a legacy portfolio or business practices, we have the flexibility to offer individual borrowers unique solutions to address their needs." They'll also be waiting to swoop in when whole loan losses finally begin to materialize, with Highlands co-founder Jonathon Jacobsen saying that "whole loan losses have barely begun to materialize," despite the massive losses incurred in the secondary mortgage market. Kurland is joined by David Spector as chief investment officer at PennyMac; Spector was formerly the co-head of global residential mortgages at Morgan Stanley. For more information, visit http://www.pnmac.com.