iStar Financial Announces Sale of TimberStar Southwest Joint Venture and Portfolio of Assets for $1.7 Billion

February 19, 2008 at 7:32 AM EST

NEW YORK, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- iStar Financial Inc. (NYSE: SFI), a leading publicly traded finance company focused on the commercial real estate industry, today announced that the partners in the TimberStar Southwest venture have entered into an agreement to sell the TimberStar Southwest joint venture and its approximate 900,000 acre portfolio of forestland and related assets for $1.71 billion, including the assumption of debt.

TimberStar Southwest is a joint venture between iStar subsidiary TimberStar and equity investors MSD Capital, L.P., York Capital Management, LLC and Perry Capital, LLC.

The properties, located in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, will be purchased by an affiliate of Boston-based Hancock Timber Resource Group, a global timberland investment management organization.

TimberStar Southwest purchased the properties from International Paper in October 2006 for approximately $1.19 billion. Once completed, iStar is expected to receive gross proceeds of approximately $425 million. iStar's equity partners will receive the remaining gross proceeds from the transaction.

"We are pleased that our timber strategy has proven to be a success. As we expected when we entered the timber business three years ago, our use of sophisticated operational and financing strategies has created significant value for our shareholders and equity partners," said Jay Nydick, iStar's President. "We believe the efficiencies and value created by our TimberStar management will be beneficial to the new owners of the properties."

"We are very pleased to reach an agreement with TimberStar on the acquisition of these excellent and highly productive timberlands. We look forward to managing them on behalf of our investors following the closing," said Hancock Timber Resource Group President Dan Christensen. "This transaction further strengthens our ability to offer high-quality, globally diversified timberland portfolios to our clients."

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the second quarter 2008. iStar plans to discuss the sale on its fourth quarter and year-end earnings conference call on February 28, 2008.

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iStar Financial Inc. is a leading publicly traded finance company focused on the commercial real estate industry. The Company primarily provides custom-tailored investment capital to high-end private and corporate owners of real estate, including senior and mezzanine real estate debt, senior and mezzanine corporate capital, as well as corporate net lease financing and equity. The Company, which is taxed as a real estate investment trust ("REIT"), seeks to deliver strong dividends and superior risk-adjusted returns on equity to shareholders by providing innovative and value added financing solutions to its customers. Additional information on iStar Financial is available on the Company's website at

TimberStar, based in Atlanta, Georgia, focuses on brokering and managing a geographically diverse portfolio of timber properties. Founded by iStar Financial and two timber industry veterans, Jerrold Barag and John F. Rasor, TimberStar combines proven expertise in timberland investment and operations with the significant financial resources of a multibillion-dollar, publicly traded specialty finance company.

The Hancock Timber Resource Group, a division of Hancock Natural Resource Group, Inc, an operating company of MFC Global Investment Management, manages more than 3.7 million acres of timberland worth approximately $7.4 billion in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast United States as well as Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Additional information about HTRG may be found at

MFC Global Investment Management is the asset management arm of Manulife Financial Corporation. Based in North America with investment offices in Toronto, Boston, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, the firm has more than 100 years of experience. Additional information about MFC Global Investment Management may be found at

Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 19 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn $396 billion (US $392 billion) as of December 31, 2007. Manulife Financial Corporation trades as 'MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under '0945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial may be found on the Internet at

SOURCE iStar Financial Inc.

Catherine D. Rice, Chief Financial Officer
Andrew G. Backman, Senior Vice President - Investor Relations
both of iStar Financial Inc.
Web site: