Former Dune exec joins Access Industries

Jonah Sonnenborn has left the New York-based private equity real estate firm and now will be in charge of making property investments on behalf of one of the world’s wealthiest billionaires.

Access Industries has hired former Dune Real Estate Partners managing director Jonah Sonnenborn as its head of real estate. He will start at the firm on Monday and will be based in New York.

Founded in 1986, Access Industries is the investment company through which Ukrainian-born American businessman Len Blavatnik controls his holdings. The firm’s three sectors of focus include natural resources and chemicals; media and telecommunications; and real estate. Blavatnik, who made his fortune in diversified industries, had a net worth of $16 billion as of March 31 and ranked #44 in Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s Billionaires” list this year.

Access Industries currently is seeking to ramp up its property investments and has brought on Sonnenborn to lead that effort as its first dedicated head of real estate. The firm wants “to take a more focused, disciplined approach in real estate investing,” said Sonnenborn. Although the firm does not have a specific target allocation for property, it plans to deploy a “significant” amount of capital in the asset class, he noted.

Backed by Blavatnik’s personal capital, Access Industries has amassed a substantial real estate portfolio, which includes existing hotels in Argentina and France, a hotel and condominium project in Miami’s South Beach with Faena Group, as well as other commercial property investments across Europe.  However, the firm plans to build a more diversified portfolio going forward, with an increased focus on multifamily, office and retail investments.

Sonnenborn, who will be in charge of investing capital in new acquisitions, noted that Access Industries currently is working on a number of property transactions. Potential opportunities could include platform-level investments, direct investments with operating partners and development projects in high barrier-to-entry markets such as New York and London.  

“We definitely expect to be active throughout the rest of this year,” Sonnenborn said. “We’re seeing a lot of activity in all the major markets we want to be in – New York, London and throughout Europe – and we’re seeing opportunities to invest across all real estate sectors.” 

Until last week, Sonnenborn had worked at Dune Real Estate Partners, a New York-based private equity real estate firm with more than $1.5 billion under management. He had been with the firm since its inception in 2005 and most recently served as a managing director and member of the investment committee, responsible for sourcing, executing and managing the firm’s investments.