• Deal said to value real estate investment manager at $850M
  • Clarion management said to retain 20% stake in company

Legg Mason Inc., the global asset manager, is in exclusive talks to buy a majority stake in real estate investment specialist Clarion Partners LLC in a deal that would value the company at about $850 million, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Under the terms being discussed, Baltimore-based Legg Mason would buy 80 percent of the company from existing owner Lightyear Capital, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Clarion’s management, headed by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Furnary, would retain 20 percent, the people said. A deal could be announced as early as this month, they said.

A deal at that value would reflect a multiple of more than 12 times Clarion’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $70 million last year, the people said. Publicly traded real estate investment companies in the U.S. trade for a median average of 7.09 times Ebitda, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Legg Mason pre-empted an auction process to buy the company, the people said.

Clarion, which is based in New York and invests in office and retail related real estate, has about $38 billion in assets under management, according to its website. Lightyear and Clarion management bought Clarion Partners from ING Groep NV in 2011 for $100 million.

Spokesmen for Legg Mason and Lightyear declined to comment, while a representative of Clarion didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported previously that Lightyear was looking to sell its majority stake in Clarion and that Legg Mason could be interested.

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