Companies & People: Q&A with CBRE’s Chris Bodnar, BlackBirch’s Dan McNulty

By John B. Mugford

Last week, HREI™ reported that six months or so after officially leaving CBRE Group Inc. (NYSE: CBRE), Chris Bodnar, a long-time, well-known healthcare real estate (HRE) facilities broker, has returned to the company in a new but somewhat related role.

According to CBRE, Mr. Bodnar rejoins the firm as “leader for Advisory Services Healthcare” in the United States.

He certainly has a long history with CBRE, as he joined the company in late 2003. In 2007, Mr. Bodnar helped found the company’s U.S. Healthcare and Life Sciences Capital Markets team and then, in 2011, he teamed with the firm’s Lee Asher to serve as the group’s co-leaders of the capital markets team. In 2018, Messrs. Bodnar and Asher were named co-vice chairmen.

During his tenure at CBRE, Mr. Bodnar was involved in HRE facility sales totaling more than 50 million square feet and $20 billion.

In May 2022, Mr. Bodnar announced that he had co-founded and was the CEO of the newly formed, Denver-based Prescriptive Capital. He formed the firm in a joint venture (JV) partnership with Chad and Geoff Brue of Denver-based Brue Baukol Capital Partners, a private equity real estate investment firm that was formed in 2011 and over the years has acquired and developed more than $3 billion worth of commercial real estate, multifamily properties and operating businesses.

Following the formation of Prescriptive Capital, which is still active in the space, Mr. Bodnar stayed involved with CBRE through the end of 2022.

Now that he has returned to CBRE, Mr. Bodnar is tasked with driving the firm’s “aggressive growth strategy across all advisory lines of its leading healthcare business, with a specific focus on capital markets,” according to CBRE.

In addition, CBRE’s U.S. Healthcare and Life Sciences Capital Markets team has announced that it is has formed a partnership with New York-based BlackBirch Capital, an investment banking firm formed in 2019 led by Dan McNulty and Marc Amico.

BlackBirch says it helps raise “growth capital” for its clients, which include public and privately held real estate companies. On its website, the firm says it has raised more than $25 billion in private capital across alternative real estate sectors, including healthcare.

Some of BlackBirch’s recent work in the HRE space included acting as the financial advisor to Nashville, Tenn.-based Healthcare Realty Trust (NYSE: HR) in its sale of medical office buildings (MOBs) following its merger with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Healthcare Trust of America in 2022. In order to pay off certain debts associated with the $17.5 billion merger of the two publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), HR sold, or “joint ventured,” about $1.1 billion worth of assets in the second half of 2022 and into 2023.

BlackBirch also acted as the financial advisor to White Plains, N.Y.-based Rethink Healthcare Real Estate, formerly Seavest Healthcare Properties, in a late 2021 portfolio recapitalization totaling about $1 billion with Chicago-based Nuveen Real Estate.

In conversations with HREI, Mr. Bodnar and Mr. McNulty noted that the CBRE-BlackBirch partnership will allow the firms to “offer more comprehensive and innovative capital solutions specifically tailored to their clients’ unique goals and strategic initiatives,” as Mr. Bodnar noted.

Prior to founding BlackBirch in 2019, Mr. McNulty was a managing partner of Toronto-based Brookfield Financial’s U.S. investment banking business, which is based in New York.

Prior to joining BlackBirch in 2019, Mr. Amico was a VP in the Real Estate Capital Markets group with New York-based Evercore, an investment banking advisory firm.

Mr. Bodnar tells HREI that he’s “excited to resume the healthcare leadership role and rejoin the expansive network of highly respected healthcare professionals at CBRE. This opportunity allows me to contribute to the growth of CBRE’s service platform and utilize the investment banking expertise of BlackBirch Capital to benefit our valued clients.”

We caught up with Mr. Bodnar and Mr. McNulty recently to learn more about Mr. Bodnar’s return to CBRE as well as the new partnership with BlackBirch and what it offers clients.

Dan McNulty

HREI: Chris, can you tell us why you decided to return to CBRE?

Bodnar: I got my start in commercial real estate with CBRE 20 years ago, serving as an intern with the Private Capital Group. I feel so fortunate to have built my career within that network alongside professionals who are now some of the industry’s top leaders in their respective sectors. When CBRE’s leadership asked me to return to lead the Healthcare and Life Sciences Capital Markets Group and spearhead its overall growth and expansion strategy for the sector, it felt like a homecoming. And to now have the opportunity to partner with Dan and the BlackBirch team and leverage the global network at CBRE for our clients is very exciting. We have an incredibly talented team at CBRE offering investment sales services, debt and structured finance offerings and now strategic equity raising services via BlackBirch. We are really looking forward to bringing our clients what we are confident is an unrivaled service offering within our industry.

HREI: How does the new partnership between BlackBirch and CBRE work, and what does it offer clients?

Bodnar: The partnership with Dan (McNulty) and Marc (Amico) offers our clients incredible depth and access to capital seeking investment in the healthcare sector. Dan and Marc have longstanding relationships with a broad network of global and domestic capital providers, including sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, fund of funds, public and private pension funds, family offices, high net worth individuals, endowments and foundations.

HREI: Dan, why did BlackBirch choose to partner with Chris and the CBRE U.S. Healthcare and Life Sciences Capital Markets team?

McNulty: The decision to partner with Chris and the CBRE team is driven by our past collaborations and shared values. The launch of this partnership has been eagerly anticipated, and we are both excited to utilize our collective experiences to benefit our clients, particularly in addressing the challenges posed by the current market conditions.

HREI: I see that BlackBirch is focused on alternative real estate assets. Can you expand upon that and why that’s been the focus?

McNulty: Over the past decade, there has been a notable surge in investor demand for increased allocations and exposure to alternative sectors. We wanted to align our coverage strategy with these investor dynamics. By focusing on the entire spectrum of alternatives for equity placements, we are able to gain more traction from investors and sponsors seeking to deploy capital commitments into these strategies

HREI: How will CBRE and BlackBirch work together on assignments?

Bodnar: We have already begun collaborating on every assignment. Dan and Marc are finalizing an equity raise on a large closed-end healthcare fund, and we have been helping them with introductions to several family office relationships. They have also been very helpful to our team on the transaction side with connectivity to some of the pensions seeking direct investments.

HREI: As we all look at the past year in the HRE and MOB acquisitions markets, as well as in the broader commercial real estate and alternative real estate investment markets, there have been plenty of challenges. What has that been like and what are the biggest challenges for investors? And, can this partnership between CBRE and BlackBirch help investors navigate such challenges?

Bodnar: As we reflect on the past year, and not just in healthcare real estate but the broader real estate markets as well, two of the biggest challenges for investors have been the lack of liquidity and the strain in the debt capital markets. The majority of investors are leveraged buyers, so these debt challenges have made it difficult to make transactions and has limited their ability to execute investment strategies effectively. The collaboration with BlackBirch can help address liquidity challenges specific to our sector, and CBRE offers BlackBirch investors connectivity to some of the most compelling and stable operators within the healthcare and life sciences space.

McNulty: I couldn’t agree more. Our partnership offers a critical bridge to investors trying to navigate these widespread market challenges successfully while simultaneously providing unrivaled support and solutions to a shortage in liquidity and added pressure in dept capital markets. Combined we have access to a wide range of investors, lenders and financial institutions, allowing us to explore creative capital structures for our clients.

HREI: Finally Chris, what does your return to CBRE mean for Prescriptive Capital? And, is it still active and are you still involved?

Bodnar: We have been fortunate to have several family offices and high-net-worth individuals invest alongside us at Prescriptive Capital. We will continue to serve those investors and hope to be able to introduce them to co-investment opportunities with some of the leading operators, developers and investment management firms in the healthcare and life sciences sector. It’s a win-win for all involved.