UNITED STATES - The Massachusettes Pension Reserves Investment Board (Mass PRIM) has appointed an in-house expert to manage over $6bn (€5.5bn) of its assets in real estate and timber.

John LaCara, previously director of finance for Massachusettes State Treasury's Abandoned Property Division, confirmed to IPE Real Estate he joined the body last week as real estate investment officer.

His main duties are expected to be to look after the pension fund's vast directly-held property portfolio with the support of the fund's appointed investment managers, as details of Mass PRIM's 2007 annual report indicate the fund had 78% of its assets in direct property to June 30, 2007, and was working with at least 14 real estate investment managers and adviser firms.

He will also assist the real estate and timber committee in the review of all policy, performance and management issues and support their role in recommending to the $52bn pension fund's wider investment board the long-term management of the asset classes.

Approximately 78% (€3.8bn) of Mass PRIM's $4.82bn in real estate assets were invested in core strategies to June 30, 2007, while around 20% was in listed real estate (Reits) and the remainder in non-core property.

By April this year, the real estate element of the fund had risen to $5.5bn in value while officials announced in March they were looking to invest around $900m in the sector again, having sold timber assets amounting to $1.6bn. (See earlier IPE Real Estate story: Mass PRIM plants natural resources)

LaCara's new duties will have to be performed in difficult conditions as the pension fund had set out earlier this year to sell seven of its properties and had only achieved a deal on two by July. (See earlier IPE Real Estate story: US pension funds face slow activity)