Illinois Teachers’ hires head of private equity

Zachary Doehla, who will start at the $30bn pension on 17 August, has worked at underwriting financing for private equity deals.

The $30 billion Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois has hired Zachary Doehla as the private equity investment advisor to the pension, replacing Lamar Villere who left to join the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System in February.

Doehla will oversee only the pension’s $2.5 billion private equity portfolio, whereas Villere was in charge of private equity and absolute return at the pension. Other investment officers at TRS will oversee absolute return, a pension spokesperson said.

Doehla has extensive experience in various aspects of private equity, including distressed debt and special situations. He worked as an associate director at Orix USA, a financial and advisory service provider. At Orix, Doehla helped underwrite and close $100 million of debt and equity co-investment opportunities for the mid-market and private equity leveraged buyouts. He also evaluated more than $700 million of senior and subordinated debt offerings.

As a director at lender Bridge Finance Group, Doehla sourced deal opportunities including with private equity groups, including firms specialising in distressed situations.

Doehla’s background working with private equity firms, and especially his experience working with distressed-focused firms, matches well with the direction TRS is heading with its private equity portfolio, the spokesperson said.

“Illinois TRS has and will continue to take advantage of some of the distressed debt and prices that are the deal flow in that sector,” the spokesperson said. “It can’t hurt to have someone who has had extensive experience in that subsector.

“[Doehla] also has experience in leveraged buyouts as well,” the spokesperson said.

Illinois bumped up its allocation to private equity from 8 percent to 10 percent, while its actual allocation to the asset class lingers around 8 percent, as of 31 May, 2009. The pension has invested in private equity since 1983.

In June, the pension made an additional commitment to Blackstone Capital Partners VI of $100 million, on top of its initial commitment to the fund of $50 million. Blackstone VI is targeting $15 billion and raised as much as $8 billion as of February, according to reports.