BlackRock makes key person change for real estate fund

The world’s largest asset manager has not raised any additional capital for the vehicle since holding a first close a year ago.

BlackRock Real Estate has made a key person change to its North America Property Fund one year after the fund’s first close, PERE has learned.

BlackRock declined to comment, but PERE understands that Christina Lyndon has been named a new key person for the vehicle, alongside existing key persons Benjamin Young, head of US real estate equity; Thomas Mueller, portfolio manager of BlackRock’s European value-add real estate funds; and John Saunders, head of APAC real estate.

Lyndon, along with Young, is understood to be in a key person class where a key person event would be triggered if either person were to leave BlackRock. Mueller and Saunders, meanwhile, are in a different class of key person where a key person event would be triggered if both departed the firm. Lyndon is said to have been added as a fourth key person in the past month.

Lyndon has also been named co-portfolio manager of the fund along with Young, who originally had been the sole portfolio manager of the vehicle. Lyndon, who joined BlackRock in April, worked for more than 15 years at Angelo Gordon, where she served as portfolio manager of the AG Real Estate Income Fund, according to her LinkedIn profile.

These changes follow a period of confusion and uncertainty for investors over Lyndon’s and Young’s responsibilities for the North America Property Fund. Young, who joined BlackRock in 2014, is understood to have conceived the idea for the fund in 2019. He also has managed value-add real estate strategies for BlackRock clients through separately managed accounts over the past several years.

BlackRock officially launched the fund in 2020 and held a first close on $250 million in mid-2021. The firm has not raised any additional capital for the North America Property Fund since holding its first close a year ago. The vehicle is understood to have a $750 million target and $1 billion hard-cap.

At the time of the launch, investors were told that Young would be the sole person running the vehicle and would dedicate the majority of his time to the North America value-add fund.

However, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, informed investors in late 2021 that Lyndon had been hired to run the fund and would become the sole portfolio manager. It said Young would step away from day-to-day management of the vehicle and would instead meet with the fund leadership once a week. PERE understands that investors were told the reason for the change was because Young needed to focus on other areas of the US real estate equity business.

The portfolio manager change raised concerns from multiple investors, since Young’s level of involvement with the North America Property Fund had been significantly reduced. Discussions ensued between BlackRock and the fund’s limited partners about increasing Young’s involvement in the fund until an agreement was reached earlier this month for Young and Lyndon to both be co-portfolio managers of the fund. BlackRock, however, has not specified how the two would split responsibilities for managing the fund.

North America Property Fund was expected to be a large driver of future growth for BlackRock Real Estate. The vehicle is the first North America offering in BlackRock’s value-add real estate fund series, which also includes five Europe-focused funds and five Asia-focused funds, according to PERE data.