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NEW YORK CITY-The company founded 15 years ago as Apollo Real Estate Advisors is changing its name to AREA Property Partners, effective Jan. 15, 2009. In a release, the company says the new name formalizes its independence and marks a new chapter in its history; however, its management, investment focus and business operations will not be affected.

AREA Property Partners was co-founded in 1993 by William Mack and Leon Black, founder of Apollo Global Management LLC. It operated as an independent real estate fund manager, with separate funds and professional staff, but was affiliated until 2000 with Apollo Global. The two companies are not affiliated today, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The name change reflects an agreement between Apollo Global and AREA, according to the release.

According to published reports, Apollo Global recently hired Joseph Azrack, former president of Citi Property Investors, to head up its own new venture in commercial real estate. A source reached by GlobeSt.com declined to confirm whether the name change was undertaken partly to avoid confusion.

In a statement, Mack says AREA has “far exceeded the expectations we set for ourselves back in 1993. We have enjoyed a constructive relationship with Apollo Global Management and look forward to continuing our global real estate investment activities, which collectively have included over 450 transactions with an aggregated value in excess of $40 billion.” Since its founding, AREA itself has overseen the establishment of multiple real estate funds and joint ventures totaling $11.6 billion in equity commitments for domestic and global investments, according to the release.

AREA senior partner Lee Neibart says in the release that the firm’s funds target “a broad range of direct equity and debt investments in real estate assets and portfolios. We will continue to strive for attractive risk-adjusted returns for our investors as we expand both our product offerings and geographic footprint in the years ahead.”

Last August, AREA completed raising additional capital for its debt investment fund, Apollo Real Estate Finance Corp., bringing the total to $930 million. The $758-million Apollo Value Enhancement Fund VII LP closed in early July.

Although AREA’s businesses are not affiliated with Apollo Global’s operations, the release notes that Apollo Global “will continue to build its entity and portfolio-focused real estate business as part of its integrated platform, which has included its investments in Vail Resorts, Innkeepers Hospitality and other significant lodging firms, Harrah’s Entertainment, Realogy, WMC Mortgage and various distressed debt investments.” AREA’s global headquarters remain at the Time Warner Center here, and Mack and Neibart continue as principals along with William Benjamin, John Jacobsson, Stuart Koenig and Richard Mack.

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