Weisdorf resigns post at CPP, Kester to leave Colorado PERA

Two of the most active North American pension funds in international private equity have lost the executives in charge of their private equity programmes.

Two prominent heads of private equity investment for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association – respectively, Mark Weisdorf and Kevin Kester – are resigning, signaling a new wave of turnover among prominent limited partners.

In a brief announcement, Toronto-based CPP Investment Board said Weisdorf had resigned his post as vice president of private market investments to “pursue other interests.” The statement cited “differences in management philosophy.”

A spokesperson for CPP Investment Board declined to elaborate on the reasons for Weisdorf’s departure, but said they were unrelated to performance or strategy. “Private equity remains an important part of our portfolio and our long-term strategy,” the spokesperson said.

Weisdorf is an outspoken proponent of transparency in private equity, and CPP Investment Board is among a small handful of LPs that requires its general partners to agree to make IRR data publicly available. The spokesperson said Weisdorf’s resignation was not related to this disclosure policy.

Under Weisdorf, CPP Investment Board became a major backer of private equity funds. Since 2001, the pension has committed more than $4.3bn to private equity partnerships in Canada, the US and Europe. Most recently, the pension committed a total of $420m to funds managed by Ares Management, Credit Suisse First Boston Private Equity and Lehman Brothers Private Equity. It also invested in several European partnerships.

Weisdorf is also a prominent member of the Institutional Limited Partners Association – a trade group for LPs. At press time, he remains chair of ILPA’s research, benchmarking and standards committee.

Weisdorf could not be reached for comment.

A source familiar with the situation said Weisdorf’s departure likely stems from nothing more than a difference of opinion with 'people above him.' “Mark is a very strong-willed person, and he’s been around long enough to have opinions,” the source said. “There’s nothing at all scandalous about this.”

Prior to jointing the CPP Investment Board in 2000, Weisdorf served in senior positions at Merrill Lynch Canada, CIBC Wood Gundy and HSBC (Canada).

The CPP Investment Board spokesperson said the pension had not yet begun the process of finding a replacement for Weisdorf.

In other news, Kevin Kester, the director of alternative investments for Colorado PERA, has resigned his post to become vice president of capital markets for The Broe Companies, a Denver-based closely held company. Broe primarily operates railroad, transportation, senior housing, commercial real estate and medical device businesses. The company is affiliated with Denver’s Broe family.

At Broe, Kester will oversee the company’s development as it taps new sources of capital for its business. “They’ve only once used third-party capital and want to grow their asset base,” said a person familiar with the situation.

Kester recently stepped down as the chair of ILPA’s program committee, replaced by Mark Wiseman, the director of the Ontario Teachers’ Merchant Bank.

The private equity programs of public pension funds have long suffered from high turnover as professionals seek greener pastures in the private sector. The turnover slowed some during the recent recession, but some market observers now believe that more pension professionals will resign as new career opportunities arise as the market recovers.