BlackRock creates $11bn-plus real assets debt group

Robert Karnes, who previously led the real estate debt group, has taken over management of the new real assets group.

BlackRock has created a real assets debt group after the firm’s head of infrastructure debt, Erik Savi, announced he was leaving, according to an internal memo seen by PERE sister publication Infrastructure Investor.

Having been with the firm for five years, Savi is leaving the New York-based asset manager “to take on a new challenge” and will transition out of his position in the coming weeks, Jim Barry, BlackRock’s global head of real assets, wrote in the memo.

Instead of replacing Savi, BlackRock has created a real assets debt group, combining its $10.5 billion infrastructure debt platform with its real estate debt business to create a single real assets debt platform worth more than $11 billion, according to the memo. Robert Karnes, who previously led the real estate debt group, has taken over management of the new real assets group.

Barry called this “a plan already in the works” that was accelerated by Savi’s departure, according to the memo. “Our investment strategies and plans remain unchanged,” he wrote.

The only other personnel move resulting from Savi’s departure involves Jeetu Balchandani, who will take the role of head of Americas and APAC infrastructure debt.

BlackRock announced a similar move in 2016 when it combined its infrastructure and real estate investment teams into a single real assets group, which today oversees around $50 billion in assets.

Barry called the real assets debt space a “key driver” to the growth of BlackRock’s real assets business, and infrastructure debt has been a particular focus. In 2017, BlackRock launched its flagship Global Infrastructure Debt Fund and has raised at least $354 million to date, according to Infrastructure Investor data. The firm expects to fully invest the $256 million raised for its Colombia Infrastructure Debt Fund this year, according to the memo. Over $9 billon of BlackRock’s $10.5 billion of debt AUM is managed through separate accounts, though.

Last September, BlackRock hired Guillaume Vandewalle as a vice president in its infrastructure debt team in Europe, joining from a five-year spell as vice president of infrastructure finance and advisory at Dutch bank ING.

BlackRock came number 2 in Infrastructure Investor‘s recently published ranking of the 10 largest infrastructure debt managers, the Infrastructure Investor Debt 10.