AMERICAS NEWS: Men of the moment: Michael Humphrey and Kevin Lynch

 Two giants of the real assets advisory world; two untimely deaths. Over the past few months, the private equity real estate world has lost Michael Humphrey and Kevin Lynch, who both co-founded Cleveland, Ohio-based real assets advisory firms and who died while only in their 50s and 60s, respectively.

In 1995, Humphrey co-founded Courtland Partners with two others. Initially focused on real estate consulting, the firm expanded into infrastructure, timber and agriculture to become one of the best-known names in real assets advisory. He died at the age of 56 while on a business trip to New York in late November.

Steve Novick, the firm’s chief operating officer, recalled that his partner of over a decade never took a day off.

“Second to the love for his family, his passion and pride for the business he started in 1995 was limitless,” Novick said. “We all use the cliché that someone we know works a 24-hour, seven-day week. That is a cliché that truly no one adheres to – with the exception of Michael Humphrey. His work ethic was extraordinary. His passion for doing the right thing for the clients is his career legacy. It was an honor to be his friend and partner.”

Vijoy Chattergy, chief investment officer at the Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii, met Humphrey in 2011 when he joined the pension plan. Three years earlier, Courtland was hired as HIERS’ first real estate consultant and Chattergy credits Humphrey with turning around the system’s real estate program.

“He was a bit of a force of nature as far as economics and real estate in our industry,” Chattergy told PERE. “He was someone who thought deeply and carefully about not only the things he was working on directly, but what was going on in the world. He had an insatiable appetite when it came to trying to understand what market forces were at work and the impact it would have for real estate.”

Courtland now has offices in Los Angeles and London. Last year, the firm developed a succession plan that involved Humphrey selling part of his interest to three new principals. Those changes will take effect by the end of the first quarter of 2017.

While the industry was mourning this loss, Lynch passed away in early February at his home in Naples, Florida. With co-founder Terry Ahern, he helped The Townsend Group become one of the most influential in real assets advisory, with offices in Cleveland, San Francisco, London and Hong Kong. As of June 30, its consulting business had grown to $168.7 billion in advised assets and its multi-manager platform stood at $15 billion.

“Kevin’s energy and optimism were infectious, and his passing is a true loss to all fortunate enough to have had him in their lives,” Townsend said. “Kevin Lynch was a ubiquitous industry figure during his career.”

Lynch, who was 64, helped Linda Assante make the transition from 13 years in investment banking to real estate consulting when she joined Townsend in 2003 as a principal. While she moved to Jasper Ridge Partners, a Menlo Park, California-based investment advisor, in 2008, she continued to see Lynch at industry events. Now a managing partner at Jasper Ridge, she remembered Lynch’s bear hugs and sage advice.

“He was energizing, passionate, extremely committed and fun,” she told PERE. “He always made you feel welcome.”

She noted that when Lynch and Ahern started Townsend, real estate was not yet an institutionalized asset class, but the co-founders played a significant role in helping it gain wide acceptance among institutional investors.

With both Lynch and Humphrey now gone, the private equity real estate industry will continue to evolve, but will never be the same.