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Manulife Financial headquarters in Toronto in August, 2012.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Michael J. McNamara has been named global head of real estate investments with Manulife Asset Management Private Markets. Mr. McNamara's first day was Sept. 29 and he is working out of New York. For the past two years, Mr. McNamara was head of acquisitions and dispositions with Brookfield Office Properties.

Manulife Asset Management Private Markets is a relatively new kid on the asset management block. It launched in November 2013 and manages Manulife Asset Management's private assets. It has $75-billion under management, and $11-billion of that is in real estate. Manulife Asset Management Private Markets has been making a big push to attract institutional clients like pension funds and endowments.

McNamara spent the first 20 years of his real estate career at Lend Lease Real Estate Investment Management (formerly Equitable Real Estate). Then he logged almost a decade at Lehman Brothers Holdings as head of North American acquisitions from 2000 to 2009.

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In an interview, Kevin J. E. Adolphe, CEO of Manulife Asset Management Private Markets, said, "When you take a look at Mike's range of experiences, in terms of what he's done in building businesses, experiences through times of growth and times of stress, he brings with him a wealth of experience, contacts and track record, that is an ideal fit for what we're trying to do."

Lately, Manulife has been ramping up its investment in commercial real estate. Just last week, John Hancock, the U.S. division of Manulife, announced a $244-million (U.S) acquisition of 55 West Monroe, a ritzy 40 story office building in Chicago's financial district. That file will no doubt be sitting on Mr. McNamara's desk. A big part of McNamara's job will be finding commercial real estate assets such as 55 West Monroe and then selling them once he feels the time is right to pull the trigger.

Mr. Adolphe says there is a "focused effort to grow the real estate platform and grow assets under management."

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