Churchill hires MD for secondaries mid-market push

The Nuveen subsidiary is building a team to target GP-led deals in the US mid-market, a year after executing its own large secondaries deal.

Churchill Asset Management is entering the secondaries market as a buyer, less than a year after using it to grow its third-party assets under management.

The subsidiary of $1.2 trillion asset manager Nuveen has hired Nicholas Lawler as managing director and head of secondaries, according to two sources familiar with the matter. He joins from Chicago-based 50 South Capital and starts in late August.

Lawler will be responsible for building a secondaries investment team focused primarily on GP-led transactions in the US middle market, Secondaries Investor understands. The team will have $300 million of balance sheet capital to invest and will eventually look to raise a third-party fund.

Churchill plans to source opportunities via relationships built through its primary fund investing, co-investment and lending platforms. It counts Audax Group, Wind Point Partners and Kohlberg & Company among its GP relationships.

Lawler spent nearly 10 years at 50 South, the alternatives arm of Northern Trust Corporation, according to his LinkedIn profile. He rose to the level of senior vice-president and was responsible for sourcing, underwriting and structuring secondaries, preferred equity and direct investments in the buyout and venture capital markets.

Lawler ranked seventh in Secondaries Investor‘s 2020 Next Gen Leaders ranking. As of August 2020, he had deployed more than half a billion dollars for 50 South.

In October, Churchill closed a secondaries fund and a co-investment fund worth a combined $1.5 billion. The secondaries fund was seeded with a portfolio of 35 US mid-market PE funds acquired off its own balance sheet by Ardian, which also underwrote the unfunded co-investment vehicle.

Ardian syndicated its investment in both funds on a pro-rata basis among approximately 15 limited partners as part of a process run by Campbell Lutyens, Secondaries Investor reported.

Churchill is not the first to take an interest in the secondaries buyside after closing a deal.

In May, Secondaries Investor reported that Astorg was planning to raise a fund dedicated to single-asset deals. A year before, it moved fund services business IQ-EQ into a €1.3 billion continuation fund led by AlpInvest Partners and Goldman Sachs Asset Management in what was then the third-largest single-asset deal to take place in Europe.

Churchill and 50 South did not wish to comment. Lawler did not reply to requests for comment.