Starwood Capital Group has appointed former Whitbread development director Desmond Taljaard as senior vice president and head of asset management for its European business.

Taljaard will be responsible for overseeing the investment company’s portfolio of properties in Europe. Taljaard will be based in London and report to Jeffrey Dishner, senior managing director and chief operating officer at Starwood Capital.

The appointment comes at a time when Starwood is building a stake in Whitbread, which has prompted speculation that the investment company will launch a full take-over bid.

Dishner said: ‘Desmond's extensive experience in the hospitality industry and intricate knowledge of the European market makes him the perfect fit for our operation there.’

Taljaard said: ‘I'm delighted to be joining such a prestigious real estate investment firm, particularly given the significant strides they have made developing a foothold in Europe the past couple of years.’

Taljaard most recently served as group development director for Whitbread, where he oversaw property activities, corporate development and mergers and acquisitions across the company's various brands. This included managing the £1bn exit from its Marriott business in the UK earlier this year.

Taljaard was previously property director of J. Sainsbury's, where he had overall responsibility for property development and asset management for a property estate worth around £10bn.