Brookfield sees high turnover in fundraising team

Four senior executives in the Toronto- and New York-based alternative asset manager’s private funds group have been laid off or resigned in recent months, contributing to significant turnover of the fundraising team in the last year.

Brookfield Asset Management has experienced a wave of exits within its private funds group over the past few months. Those departures include four senior vice presidents that all joined the firm at the same time in 2009.

The executives include Paul Tam, who was focused on capital-raising in Asia from Brookfield’s Hong Kong office and left in December, and Robert von Herrmann, a Munich-based senior vice president who was focused on continental Europe and is said to be leaving in the next month or so. Peter Thomson, who was based in London and covered the UK and Middle East, is said to be retiring, while Scott White, who was based in New York and focused on global capital-raising efforts, is said to be departing in the next week and joining a startup firm focused on senior housing investments.

Tam, von Herrmann, Thomson and White were among a group of senior recruits that joined Brookfield in late summer 2009 as part of an expansion of the asset manager’s fundraising team led by Leo van den Thillart, who himself was hired in May 2009. Tam, von Hermann and Thomson all previously had worked with van den Thillart at Bear Stearns, where the latter had served as global co-head of the private funds group at the investment banking and securities trading firm.

Other senior members of Brookfield's fundraising team to have exited in the past year include Matt Hershey, a six-year veteran of the firm who departed early last year to join New York-based advisory firm Hodes Weill & Associates; and Alexander Apponyi, who was hired at Brookfield at the same time as Tam, von Hermann, Thomson and White, but left in December 2011.

The departures have included some voluntary resignations but primarily have consisted of layoffs, where the reasons for the separations have included a lack of cultural fit and cost-cutting. However, some have pointed to the fact that Brookfield may have expanded its private funds group a little too quickly under van den Thillart, who helped to increase the size of the team from roughly 10 to 35 in about three years. All told, the layoffs or resignations of nine senior vice presidents, two vice presidents and numerous junior-level staff have occurred during van den Thillart’s tenure.

Brookfield, however, has made a number of senior hires during the past three years, including Julian Schiller, who was recruited to replace Apponyi in late 2011; Grant Berlin, who succeeded Hershey in the firm’s New York office early last year; and Niel Thassim, who was hired earlier this year to replace Tam as Asia head of its private funds group.

The turnover within the private funds group – which raises funds across Brookfield’s main asset classes of real estate, infrastructure, renewable energy and private equity – is said to have put a damper on capital-raising efforts for Brookfield, which currently has seven funds in the market.

Since van den Thillart took over as head of the private funds group, Brookfield has extended or will likely extend the fundraising period for all of the firm’s vehicles including its first global real estate fund, Brookfield Strategic Real Estate Partners, which to date has raised $2.6 billion of its $3.5 billion target and currently is expected to hold a final close in June, sources said.

In a statement to PERE, however, a spokesman said, “Brookfield has a terrific fundraising team, with strong leadership, and we are enjoying significant success in bringing in new capital across all our strategies from our institutional clients…The turnover rate at Brookfield is low when our full complement of professionals is fully accounted for. Also, the turnover that has taken place has had no impact on our fundraising. We are having our best year ever.”