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BlackRock poaches Goldman execs to build secondaries team

Steve Lessar, co-head of the investment bank's secondaries unit, and Konnin Tam will join the $6.3trn asset manager in July.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has hired two Goldman Sachs Asset Management executives, including its secondaries co-head, to build a team focusing on the strategy.

New York-based Steve Lessar, who has 13 years of experience at the investment bank and was most recently co-head of its Vintage funds, will join BlackRock at the end of July, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Konnin Tam, an almost two-decade Goldman veteran from its private equity group, will also join Lessar at the end of July to build the team, according to two of the sources. It is understood the team will initially focus on private equity secondaries.

A BlackRock memo seen by sister publication Secondaries Investor confirms Lessar and Tam will join in the summer.

“For nearly two decades, PEP has been helping clients realise the potential of private equity through primary funds, co-investments and opportunistic secondaries,” the memo reads, referring to BlackRock’s private equity partners unit. “Looking ahead, we see the market for a more broad-based approach to secondary investing as another promising and growing opportunity.”

Lessar joined Goldman in 2002 and spent three years in merchant banking at Lehman Brothers between 2006 and 2009 before rejoining the investment bank, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Goldman has no plans to replace Lessar and his duties will be assumed by other team members, Secondaries Investor understands. The Vintage funds unit sits within the bank’s AIMS private equity group, which employs 80 professionals globally.

Reuters first reported Lessar’s and Tam’s departure.

BlackRock has taken a dim view of acquiring stakes on the secondaries market in recent years. At PEI’s Global Investor Forum in Tokyo in 2016, Johnathan Seeg, a managing director at BlackRock PEP, told attendees the firm uses the secondaries market opportunistically and that high pricing has been driving it to sell stakes.

“Like any market, in the secondary market we believe there are times to be a buyer and there are actually times to be a seller,” Seeg said. “We will actually go both ways on that, and in the last two years we’ve been liquidating a number of our holdings; we’ve been selling into the secondary market.”

The $6.3 trillion asset manager’s private equity head for EMEA, Nathalie von Niederhäusern, previously told Secondaries Investor that secondaries were “over-hyped“.

“There have been over-promises made to clients saying, commit to a secondaries fund, we will be super fast, the returns will always go up when we buy at a discount and the next year we will mark it up,” she said. “There will be a couple of surprises based on deals done in a rush and in a hype since 2014.”

BlackRock and Goldman declined to comment.