CHICAGO — MJE-Loop Capital Partners LLC — a participant in the early bidding process to lead Chicago’s proposed airport express rail line project — has hired infrastructure specialist Robert Keough as the firm looks to raise its game.

Keough joined the firm, which does business as JLC Infrastructure, as a managing partner in its New York office. He will work on building out the firm — on both staffing levels and its pursuit of deals — to lead the firm’s infrastructure investment efforts. He will work alongside Marlon Smith who leads the firm’s public private partnership investment endeavors from Chicago. The firm also has a presence in Los Angeles.

JLC is an infrastructure investment management firm formed in 2015 by Loop Capital and Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Prior to joining JLC, Keough served as a senior principal at Basalt Infrastructure Partners LLC, an independent investment advisor managing more than $2 billion of capital dedicated to the infrastructure sector. He led the firm’s investment strategy, particularly in regulated utilities and power. Earlier in his career, he was as a portfolio manager at John Hancock Life Insurance Company managing a $2.2 billion infrastructure equity portfolio.

James Reynolds, chief executive officer of Loop Capital Markets LLC, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Thursday, June 20, 2013.
The new hire will strenghten the investment capability of JLC Infrastructure, said co-founder James Reynolds. Bloomberg News

Keough’s “experience with senior leadership roles at both institutional and private equity infrastructure investors further strengthens our investment capability as we continue to work with communities to rebuild U.S. infrastructure,” said James Reynolds, co-founder of JLC and chief executive officer of Chicago-based investment banking, brokerage and advisory firm Loop Capital.

Loop is well-known in the municipal sector as one of the top ranked minority-owned public finance banking firms with a national presence. Magic Johnson Enterprises is a 20-year-old company led by retired professional basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson. It invests in varied businesses across multiple industries with community development and empowerment in mind.

The firm has approximately $300 million in assets under management including committed capital and has been a member of investment teams on a series of airport infrastructure transactions, including the planned redevelopments of Denver International Airport Great Hall Terminal and the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal B.

The firm is part of the O’Hare Xpress LLC team along with Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, Mott MacDonald, and First Transit. The team is one of four respondents that submitted their qualifications for review by Chicago to lead a proposed P3 to design, build, finance, and operate express rail service between downtown and O’Hare International Airport.

The other proposals are from tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s The Boring Company; Oaktree Capital Management; and O’Hare Express Train Partners, which is a team that includes OHL Infrastructure, Kiewit, and Amtrak.

Keough’s hiring marks the next stage of growth after hitting several milestones that included capital goals and the completion of some high profile deals, Keough and Smith said in an interview this week.

“The franchise is pretty well established and it’s a business that is growing and looking to be more active going forward,” Keough said.

“This is a long-term game,” Smith added. “We feel pretty good about where the market is and where it is going across the range of subsectors. We will look at things beyond the traditional P3 market” with an eye on tapping Keough’s power and utility background.

The firm now employs four professionals including Keough and Smith and is looking to close out the year with eight to 12.

Keough and Smith didn’t disclose much on their pursuit of the O’Hare project noting it’s early in the process. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a said no taxpayer funds will go to fund the project so project revenues such as fares will have to be sufficient to back the financing. Industry officials have said the project could run between $1 billion and $2 billion.

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