Ex-Highland Capital trio launch alpha-focused credit manager Sycamore Tree

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Three former Highland Capital Management partners have launched Sycamore Tree Capital Partners, a new alpha-focused private and alternative credit investment manager which aims to tap into value-oriented opportunities arising from credit market upheaval.

The Dallas-headquartered firm is co-founded by alt-credit veterans Mark Okada, who will serve as CEO; Jack Yang, the firm’s president and head of business development; and chief investment officer Trey Parker.

Sycamore Tree, which also has an office in New York, will initially focus on traded credit, structured products and special situations, drawing on the trio’s “deep experience across multiple cycles”.

The trio said credit has become integral to asset allocation models in a sustained low growth and low rate environment, and believe “now more than ever, experienced and reliable managers, who can navigate complexity, manage risk and identify value, are essential” in light of 2020’s unique landscape.

“We plan to invest in value-oriented opportunities arising from uncertainty around when we will return to a ‘new normal’,” Okada said in an email comment to Hedgeweek. “The timing depends not only on whether a vaccine is approved, but also on vaccine uptake.”

A high-profile veteran of loan and credit markets of some 35 years, Okada co-founded multi-billion dollar credit and CLO specialist Highland Capital Management in 1990, where was also chief investment officer.

Yang was most recently head of the Americas and global head of business development at Alcentra Group, focusing on private and alternative credit, where he helped more than double the firm's AUM to approximately USD40 billion over six years. Previously he was managing partner at Highland Capital Management and Onex Credit Partners, having earlier founded the loan syndication business at Merrill Lynch and subsequently led global leveraged finance. Yang began his career at Chemical Bank where he helped launch the LBO, syndicated finance and high-yield bond groups. He also served as director and vice chair of the Loan Syndications and Trading Association for 10 years.

Before joining Sycamore, CIO Parker spent 13 years at Highland Capital in several key positions including co-CIO, head of private equity, head of credit and portfolio manager. A loan, CLO, high-yield, multi-strategy credit and mezzanine debt market specialist of more than 20 years, he began his career in sales and trading at First Union and Morgan Stanley and later had roles at BMO Merchant Banking and the Hunt Special Situations Group.

Meanwhile, John Muse and Ken Hersh are strategic investors in the firm’s initial fund launches and will also serve on the management company advisory board to help shape long-term strategy.

Okada added: “We’ve put together a team with decades of experience at building multi-billion dollar firms – we are capable, experienced, and have every intention of doing that with our new firm.”