TIAA-CREF marches on with commitments

Amid some turnover within its alternative investment programme, the $464bn institution has committed to Vestar, Ridgemont and Natural Gas Partners.

The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) has been active this year with private equity commitments, even as its private equity team has lost some long-time executives.

Since the beginning of 2012, the company has made several private equity commitments, including $40 million to Ridgemont Equity’s first independent fund, targeting $675 million; $25 million to NGP Natural Resources Fund X, targeting $4.75 billion, and $60 million to Vestar Capital Partners VI, which is targeting $3.5 billion, according to TIAA-CREF’s first quarter financing filing.

Since the latter half of 2011, the organisation has also committed to BC Partners, Industrial Growth Partners and WL Ross.

TIAA-CREF has a long-standing private equity investment programme, selectively seeking opportunities we believe will create value for our clients.

TIAA-CREF

The commitments come at a time when many of the executives who helped form the alternatives programme in the late 1990s have departed, including Sheryl Schwartz and Shelley Zoler, two of the programme’s founders. Long-time alternative investment officers Holly Holtz, a senior managing director of private equity, high yield and distressed investments, and Armando Acosta, a portfolio manager with the same group, both also left TIAA-CREF in January.

TIAA-CREF, which manages about $464 billion, merged its formerly distinct alternative investment programme into two other divisions in 2010. The company said at the time it remained committed to private equity after the changes.

The combined division is headed by Heather Davis, senior managing director and head of global private markets, and Marina Mavrakis, managing director and head of private equity and high yield investments.

“TIAA-CREF has a long-standing private equity investment programme, selectively seeking opportunities we believe will create value for our clients,” a spokesperson said in an email, declining to comment further.

Earlier this year, the organisation closed its $2 billion TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture, which collected capital from several institutions to invest in US farmland. Institutions that are part of the venture include Swedish pension fund AP2, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. TIAA has a “significant” stake in the company as well.

“We believe farmland offers investors excellent portfolio diversification given its low correlation to traditional asset classes like stocks and bonds,” according to Jose Minaya, managing director and head of global natural resources and infrastructure investments at TIAA-CREF.