CalPERS chief named Private Equity Leader

Joe Dear, CalPERS' CIO, is the first LP to be honoured as PEI’s Private Equity Leader and joins Sir Ronald Cohen, Jeremy Coller and Howard Marks on the honour roll.

Joseph Dear, the chief investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, has been chosen as Private Equity International’s 2010 Private Equity Leader.

The Private Equity Leader award – now in its fourth year – is given to an individual who, over the course of their career, has made a crucial contribution to the development of private equity as an industry and an asset class. It is the only category in PEI’s annual industry awards that is selected by the editorial team at PEI, rather than voted for by the readers.

Joe Dear

As CalPERS’ chief investment officer, Dear shapes the investment strategy of one of the asset class’ most influential limited partners. The $228 billion public pension system has been at the forefront of the private equity limited partner community since 1990. But it is not the institution which has won the award, it’s the individual steering it.

When Dear arrived at CalPERS in March 2009, he was met by a battered portfolio, an over-weighted exposure to private equity and a soon-to-unfold scandal involving allegations of “pay-to-play” activity between some placement agents and fund managers. Since then he has led an overhaul of the pension’s asset allocation model, initiated a wide ranging review of the pension’s interaction with placement agents and brought managers to account over high fees and misaligned interests.

Dear has always been an authoritative supporter of the asset class. Before joining CalPERS, he was executive director for the Washington State Investment Board. During Dear’s tenure, the $77 billion pension grew its private equity allocation to a market leading 25 percent from 17 percent.

At a conference in May 2010, he told delegates that illiquid assets would continue to be a core part of the CalPERS portfolio. “I don’t know how we make our return objectives without investing in illiquid assets,” he said.

Dear is the first limited partner to win the Private Equity Leader Award. The previous winners are listed below.

2010: Joe Dear, chief investment officer, CalPERS
2009: Howard Marks, chairman and co-founder, Oaktree Capital Management
2008: Jeremy Coller, founder, partner and chief investment officer, Coller Capital
2007: Sir Ronald Cohen, co-founder and former chairman of Apax Partners and founder of Bridges Ventures