BofA Hires Kok, Eyes 3-Way CMBS Offering

Bank of America has tapped veteran lender George Kok to oversee conduit lending.

Meanwhile, the buzz is that BofA, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo are thinking of teaming up on a securitization later this year.

With the hiring of Kok, BofA is installing a well-known face at the top of its conduit operation, which originates small-to-medium-size commercial mortgages for securitization. Kok oversaw conduit lending at Merrill Lynch from 2001 to 2008, following a five-year stint running the origination and underwriting group for Morgan Stanley's conduit operation. Before joining Morgan Stanley, he worked at Capital Lease Funding and Prudential Insurance.

Most recently, Kok was head of credit at FundCore Finance of New York. Kok and three other Merrill alumni - Steven Ball, John Mulligan and Kevin Davis - launched that lending shop last August with backing from private equity shop Black Creek of Denver.

Kok, a managing director, starts at BofA next week. He will report to managing director Mike Mazzei, head of commercial real estate debt capital markets. Managing director David Fallick continues to oversee large-loan originations in the capital-markets group.

Along with perhaps a half-dozen other lenders, BofA has resumed originating loans for securitization following the market meltdown. CMBS shops, however, are having a hard time amassing enough collateral for deals because of strong competition from insurers and a limited pool of borrowers able to meet the more-stringent underwriting standards now in place.

That is prompting lenders to discuss teaming up on deals to achieve critical mass, a practice that was common even when the market was humming. Just last month, J.P. Morgan and Ladder Capital joined forces on a $716.3 million multi-borrower offering.

While there's no guarantee that BofA, Deutsche and Wells will proceed with a joint deal, the idea is under active consideration. Deutsche and Wells have been pursuing loans actively for months.

Since the CMBS market started to thaw late last year, BofA has underwritten two single-borrower deals on an agent basis: a $460 million offering for Flagler Development in December backed mostly by office and industrial mortgages, and a $650 million issue last month backed by a loan on One Bryant Park, a Manhattan office building jointly owned by BofA and Durst Organization. Also, BofA last month co-led, with Deutsche, a $1.2 billion Freddie Mac transaction.

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