TIAA-CREF’s Schwartz joins Perseus

Sheryl Schwartz, who built TIAA-CREF’s alternatives platform into a $5.5bn powerhouse, will work on mezzanine and private equity deals as well as IR.

Sheryl Schwartz, the founder and former head of the alternatives programme at Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), has joined mid-market specialist Perseus as a senior managing director to focus on mezzanine, private equity and investor relations.

Schwartz left TIAA-CREF in May when the institution merged the alternatives division with two other divisions.

At Perseus, about half of Schwartz’s time will be spent on private equity and mezzanine origination, she told PEO in an interview Tuesday. Schwartz has extensive deal-making experience from her time at TIAA-CREF, which engaged in direct and co-investing along with making commitment to funds.

“I’m excited, I didn’t want to do the same thing I had done for 13 years,” Schwartz said, referring to her time at TIAA-CREF. “Instead of doing it for an institution, I’m doing it in a fund format.”

Sheryl
Schwartz

Schwartz said that, in her mind, “she will always be an LP”, which will be a big help in working with Perseus’ base of limited partners. “I’ll understand better when LPs have questions, where they’re coming from,” she said.

Perseus has invested about 75 percent of its Perseus Partners VII, which closed on $602 million in 2006. The Washington, DC-based firm is headed by Frank Pearl, who started his buyout career with Wesray Capital in the 1980s.

Schwartz founded the alternatives division at TIAA-CREF in 1997, which today values its private equity and co-investments portfolio at about $5.5 billion, with about $3 billion in unfunded commitments.

Schwartz told PEI in a past interview the alternatives platform was “initially just an experiment”. When she launched the platform, she had been working in the company’s asset-backed securities division. For several years, Schwartz worked in various divisions including mortgage-backed securities, private placements and secondary private placements.

Schwartz and five others all “essentially” volunteered to launch the alternatives platform.

“The key, we realised, was access to the best funds,” she said. “But with private equity funds, the best deals don’t have a placement agent. You have to find them, identify them and go out and network with them.”