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Apollo hires three BlackRock MDs to lead PE secondaries buildout

Konnin Tam, Steve Lessar and Veena Isaac were fired by BlackRock Monday morning to pre-empt their departure, just as the firm returned to market with a new secondaries fund.

Apollo Global Management has poached a team of senior BlackRock executives in a day of corporate upheaval in the secondaries market.

Managing directors Steve Lessar, Konnin Tam and Veena Isaac are set to join Apollo to lead its private equity secondaries business, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The news emerged just hours after BlackRock fired the three heads of its secondaries investment team after it emerged they were to leave together.

“The action we took reflects how seriously we take our commitment to putting the interests of our clients first and how the actions of these individuals fell short of what we expect of our employees,” said Edwin Conway, global head of BlackRock Alternative Investors, in an internal memo quoted by Bloomberg, which first reported the news of the dismissals.

BlackRock’s secondaries team, which in May held a $3 billion final close on its debut BlackRock Secondaries & Liquidity Solutions fund, will now be led by global head of investments for BlackRock Private Equity Partners, Lynn Baranski, the memo said.

BlackRock had just returned to market with its second secondaries fund targeting $4 billion, according to a source close to the matter. Other members of the team were not aware of the managing directors’ plans to depart, Secondaries Investor understands.

BlackRock is reportedly still figuring out whether the departures will result in the breach of a key person clause on Fund I and whether Fund II will remain in market. The firm did not wish to comment and Tam, Lessar and Isaac had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Lessar and Tam joined BlackRock in 2018 from Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Isaac, an ex-partner at multifamily office and asset manager Jasper Ridge Partners, joined in 2019.

Apollo launched a $1 billion credit secondaries business in April last year while making clear that it would eventually enter the private equity market. It has backed several PE secondaries deals off balance sheet, including a $200 million single-asset process on Alpine Investors portfolio company Ingenio and one centred around Micross Components, a Behrman Capital portfolio company.

Apollo had not responded to a request for comment at the time of going to press.