Oaktree appoints CEO in leadership reshuffle

Board member Jay Wintrob will take on the role as CIO Bruce Karsh becomes co-chairman

Oaktree Capital Group has appointed one of its board directors as chief executive officer – the first time someone has held the position at the firm.

Jay Wintrob, who will start in the new role on 1 November, has been a member of Oaktree’s board of directors since 2011 and going forward will have primary responsibility for developing and managing Oaktree’s business, including driving its focus on returns, increasing efficiency and profitability, and helping the firm capitalise on growth opportunities, according to a statement

Previous to his appointment, Wintrob spent 27 years at American International Group (AIG) and its predecessor companies, including SunAmerica. Following AIG’s acquisition of SunAmerica, he became president and chief executive of AIG’s retirement services businesses.

His joining Oaktree came as he was passed over for chief executive at AIG, media has reported.

“After nearly 20 years, including the last two-and-a-half as a public company, Oaktree has expanded substantially in terms of assets, employees, breadth and complexity. It’s time for us to turn to a world-class financial services executive to take our business to the next level,” said Howard Marks, chairman and co-founder.

“We are thrilled that Jay has agreed to take the helm, bringing to Oaktree his intimate familiarity with our business, vast experience managing large and complex financial services companies, and a record of leading highly motivated and talented professionals serving their clients.”

In addition, Oaktree has appointed its president and co-founder Bruce Karsh as co-chairman with Marks, while John Frank, who has served as Oaktree’s managing principal since 2006 and previously as general counsel, has been named vice chairman.

Oaktree, one of the world’s most prominent asset managers and distressed investors, has about $91 billion in assets under management and raised $8.4 billion across its strategies in 2013.

The firm is also refocusing its activities globally, particularly building its presence in China. In November last year, Oaktree and China Cinda Asset Management allocated a combined $1 billion to invest in distressed debt in China.

Also in Asia, the firm was one of the hugely successful private equity duo that reaped the losses of CVC Capital Partners in its troubled investment in Australia's Nine Entertainment, the senior lenders completing a $3.4 billion debt-for-equity swap in the business, later listing it on the Australian Stock Exchange.