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Nathalie Palladitcheff, seen at Ivanhoé Cambridge's Montreal offices on February 25, 2019, joined the firm in 2015 after working at several global financial services and real estate firms.Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc. has appointed its first female chief executive to lead the $65-billion real estate company.

Nathalie Palladitcheff, Ivanhoé’s president, will become part of a small group of female CEOs in Canada and one of a handful of women to lead a Canadian-based commercial realtor.

The 51-year old Ms. Palladitcheff will succeed 65-year-old Daniel Fournier, who is retiring this fall after nearly a decade at the helm of the company owned by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

The appointment is effective Oct. 15.

Mr. Fournier, who is credited with consolidating the pension fund’s real estate portfolio and turning Ivanhoé into a global player, also serves as Ivanhoé’s chairman. However, the Caisse is changing the governance at Ivanhoé and other subsidiaries and will separate the top two roles. It will appoint a new Ivanhoé chair later in the year.

Ms. Palladitcheff joined Ivanhoé in 2015 as chief financial officer, after working at several global financial services and real estate firms. She was promoted to president in 2018 and started managing Ivanhoé’s emerging markets and European businesses.

Ms. Palladitcheff will take the top executive job at Ivanhoé as the commercial real estate industry has benefited from ultralow interest rates and a booming property market.

She has previously said that the bull market in commercial property will not last and that Ivanhoé will continue to “diversify” its portfolio. Requests to speak with Ms. Palladitcheff were denied.

The company owns office buildings and apartments in the Americas, shopping centres in Brazil, Germany and China, industrial properties, as well as hotels including the Fairmont Château Frontenac in Quebec City.

Ivanhoé was the first Canadian property owner to lease to office sharing company WeWork, whose parent company The We Company is getting ready to go public later this year. Ivanhoé recently invested $1-billion with We to buy real estate in major cities around the world.

During his tenure, Mr. Fournier doubled the real estate company’s portfolio to $65-billion, and the company said it generated net investment income of nearly $24-billion with an average annual return of 11.8 per cent.

In an e-mailed statement, Mr. Fournier said he was not retiring because of his age and said: “After ten years, the timing is right for new ideas, a new energy and new leadership to meet the challenges of the next ten years.”

Among the biggest pension fund real estate companies in Canada, Ivanhoé will be the only one with a female CEO.

The numbers are similar among publicly traded real estate companies. According to a recent report from Osler Hoskin & Harcourt, publicly traded real estate companies had a higher average of female executives compared with other industries in Canada. However, most of them are not chief executives.

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