Majority stake in real estate firm Clarion on the block, say sources: Reuters

Private equity firm Lightyear Capital is looking to sell its majority stake in real estate investment manager Clarion Partners LLC for around $800 million, according to people familiar with the sales talks.

Lightyear helped Clarion’s management buy the firm from its previous partner, Dutch financial services company ING Groep NV , in 2011. When that deal was struck, the price and ownership structure were not disclosed.

New York-based Clarion’s current management plans to retain its minority interest after a sale, according to the sources who spoke earlier this week on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the sale.

Lightyear’s stake in Clarion has attracted interest from a larger asset manager, LeggMason Inc, according to one source.

Legg Mason could be eyeing Clarion, with more than $36.8 billion in assets under management, because it offers a specialized real estate investment management platform, the source said, noting it was not clear if Legg Mason was still interested.

Real estate asset manager Cohen & Steers Inc, a publicly traded competitor to Clarion, had $52 billion in assets under management at Oct. 31 and a market capitalization of $1.3 billion.

Representatives for Clarion, Lightyear and Legg Mason declined to comment.

There are very few real estate asset managers, and they are rarely for sale. In October, asset manager Russell Investments was sold by the London Stock Exchange Group Plc to private equity firm TA Associates in a transaction valued at $1.1 billion.

Clarion investments include office buildings, hotels, residential and retail properties. The firm offers individual and institutional investors real estate funds as well as separate accounts.

Founded in 1982, Clarion has 274 employees in offices in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, London, Los Angeles, São Paulo, Seattle and Washington, DC.