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EXCLUSIVE: BlackRock makes key Partners Group hire

The world’s largest asset manager has hired a senior real estate professional from Switzerland’s Partners Group to become fund manager of its yet-to-be-launched European value-added fund.

BlackRock, the New York-based global asset management behemoth, has lured away a senior real estate professional from Partners Group to become portfolio manager of a forthcoming European fund, PERE has learned. The hire of Thomas Mueller as a managing director is significant as BlackRock is preparing to launch a commingled value-added fund in Europe next year as a vital step in providing investors with access to higher returning funds in the wake of its takeover of MGPA last year.

As previously reported, BlackRock, which currently manages around $23.5 billion of real estate and employs 225 staff, is expected to launch a European value-added fund in 2015 and has been sounding out investors already. It also is expected to come forward with an Asia fund even earlier than the European product, thought to be the first quarter of the year.

Both BlackRock and Partners have confirmed the appointment. A spokeswoman for Partners said Mueller would leave at the end of the year and that a replacement would join in January. She added that, overall, the European real estate team at Partners still is growing in numbers. BlackRock also confirmed the hire of Mueller, adding that he would become a manager in the European real estate team.

At Partners, Mueller was responsible for sourcing and executing direct and indirect private equity real estate transactions across Europe. He joined in March 2011. Prior to that, he was a principal banker at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

BlackRock has been busy integrating teams since taking over MGPA, the pan-Asia and Europe firm, last year. Indeed, in this month’s Blueprint interview, the three senior-most members of the real estate team –Jack Chandler, chairman of the real estate group; Marcus Sperber, global head of real estate; and Simon Treacy, global chief investment officer – explain the progress so far.

“This is the culmination of two years of strategic plan with BlackRock’s legacy business,” says Chandler, in the interview. “We are positioning ourselves to be in all four quadrants of the real estate universe.”

Sperber provides an honest appraisal when asked how people on the outside used to look at BlackRock Real Estate. “We were seen as a core manager – a very big asset manager with a small shop. We were shockingly small.” However, he adds: “Our clients now see us very differently.”

“We can talk to clients more holistically at a time when investors are wanting to work with fewer managers,” explains Treacy, who later points out there are more than 500 BlackRock relationship managers around the world talking to clients.

See the new December/January issue of PERE and here on perenews.com for the full interview.