It's early afternoon in London and I just read some very sad news: Kevin Lynch, who along with Terry Ahern founded The Townsend Group, has died.
Kevin was one of the most smart (and fun) guys in the institutional real estate world. I was fortunate to be able to call him a friend. We got to know each other over the past 18 years starting with my time with Institutional Real Estate (IREI) and our relationship continued since I left that firm in 2008.
At the first IREI Europe Editorial Advisory Board Meeting, IREI CEO Geof Dohrmann and I invited Kevin to attend. Those meetings were reserved for sponsors of The Institutional Real Estate Letter (there were 12 that first year) and one representative from at least an equal number of institutional investors (pension fund, endowments, foundations, etc.). At that time, in 2006, there was an on-going debate around those meetings: are Fund of Funds considered institutional investors or investment managers? Notwithstanding the debate, we invited him to the meeting.
There had been no other meeting like that board meeting in Europe and I had spent two years working at signing up those 12 sponsor firms (investment managers) and then convincing the LP's that it was worthwhile for them to attend. In several cases I went to one country to see one pension fund face-to-face to explain what that 'board' meeting was all about.
As Europeans tend to play it closer to the vest than most Americans, I needed a way to show the LP's that the meeting was a safe environment for open discussion. Just prior to the start, I pulled my friend Erwin Stouthamer to the side and asked him if I could pose the first question of the meeting to him - knowing that Erwin would speak candidly. I did. He did and the rest is a great story. As many of you know, Erwin died in the spring of 2016.
At that time, The Townsend Group had very little consulting business in Europe. Kevin, who needed no prodding to contribute to open discourse, was extremely quiet for the early part of the meeting; listening; taking everything in. And then, by agreement, we opened the floor to a discussion about whether Townsend was needed in Europe and also the role that Townsend as a manager (which was still in the closet in those days) plays in the industry. It was lively and Kevin's eyes were opened - he truly appreciated the invitation to be there.
On a number of occasions over the years, usually in New York, Kevin and I would meet for dinner (and drinks) and talk for a couple of hours about this, that and the other thing. He was a great sounding board for me during some difficult times in my life and I always appreciated his friendship and sage advice.
This past winter, I ran into Terry Ahern on 55th Street early one morning - he was returning to his hotel from a morning run. We talked for a few minutes and he suggested I follow up with he and Kevin early in 2017.
Last week, I wrote to Terry and Kevin to discuss whether there was a way for us to work together - to coach some of Townsend's consultants who make regular presentations to their pension fund clients. We hadn't connected yet and now I know there will be no connecting with Kevin - at least on Earth - any longer.
On Feb 3, 2015 Kevin wrote me this email after I shared a story about my meeting the baseball legend, Ernie Banks on a cross-country flight:
Steve it's been a long time. I was personal friends with Ernie for over 20 years. He was one of the nicest people I've ever met. He and I talked frequently but now that he's gone I know not as much as we should have. That's always the case when we loose a friend. I was buying baseball shoes for my son who was 5 at the time at Dicks and the phone rings; it was Ernie. I'm glad you remembered him. Ironically he liked baseball but didn't love it. Ernie was used by some managers to open doors to raise money and not paid for his efforts. His riches came from friends and life. I'm glad you remembered him. Kevin
This is not easy for me to write; sitting having coffee after a long day of traveling yesterday (even for me). On April 22, 2016 I received this email from Kevin after I wrote in this column about Erwin's passing:
"Nice piece. Sorry to hear our friend passed away. He was a good man and always fun to be with. Kevin"
And now, I will close with those same words: Sorry to hear about Kevin passing away. He was a good man and always fun to be with.
My heartfelt condolences go out to Kevin's family and his partners and colleagues at The Townsend Group.
Very, very sad!