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Manulife hires ex-Houlihan execs for secondaries launch

Becomes the latest institution to enter the secondaries market as a dedicated buyer.

By Adam Le

Manulife Financial, Canada’s largest insurer, has become the latest institution to enter the secondaries market as a dedicated buyer.

The Toronto-headquartered firm, which has around C$1.1 trillion ($837 billion; €752 billion) in assets and under administration, has hired Jeff Hammer and Paul Sanabria, former co-heads of Houlihan Lokey’s illiquid financial assets practice, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The pair will run a principal investing unit focusing on the strategy, the sources said.

It is understood that Hammer and Sanabria will begin at Manulife on Oct. 21. They left Houlihan Lokey over the summer and were understood to be considering their next move in either an advisory, merchant banking or principal investing capacity, Buyouts sister publication Secondaries Investor reported in July.

It is unclear what type of secondaries strategy the pair will focus on at Manulife.

Hammer and Sanabria had built Los Angeles-headquartered Houlihan Lokey’s illiquid financial assets group in 2009 and focused on complex transactions, such as non-performing loans, hedge fund LP interests and side-pocketed assets, life settlements and intellectual property, in addition to private equity LP interests and GP-led secondaries deals.

Manulife’s entry to the secondaries market follows BlackRock, which last year hired a team from Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s Vintage program.

Founded in 1887, Manulife provides financial advice, insurance, and wealth and asset management solutions for individuals, groups and institutions. It acquired insurer John Hancock in 2004 and continues to operate as John Hancock in the U.S.

The insurer is no stranger to the secondaries market. This year it sold a $1.7 billion private equity portfolio off its general account into a vehicle managed by the Manulife Private Capital team and backed by AlpInvest Partners in a deal advised by Campbell Lutyens. Last year, Manulife’s infrastructure investment team carried out a similar process, also advised by Campbell Lutyens, in which Ardian underwrote the transfer of a $1 billion portfolio off the insurer’s balance sheet into a new vehicle, which then raised an additional $1 billion through a syndication process.

A spokeswoman for Manulife declined to comment. Hammer and Sanabria did not return requests for comment.

Rod James contributed to this report