Wilshire loses CIO, fundraising put on hold

Jeff Ennis has resigned from the firm. Wilshire Private Market’s parent company was taking one-third of income generated by the private equity division.

Jeff Ennis, chief investment officer of Los Angeles-based Wilshire Private Markets, has left the firm, and Wilshire is postponing fundraising it expected to begin in the second half of 2010 until next year.

The news about Ennis’ departure was included in an investment bulletin from the UK based Suffolk County pension fund, which has committed £52 million to the fund of funds, of which about £31 million has been called.

Global Pensions first reported Ennis’ departure.

Ennis could not be reached for comment. “Over the past year, we have been implementing our strategic plan which includes the further integration of the Private Markets Group into Wilshire,” Wilshire's chief executive officer Dennis Tito said in an emailed statement. “While we value all of our senior executives and the contributions they make to the firm and our clients, it is understandable that some would choose to pursue other professional interests as a result of this integration.”

Jeff Ennis

Wilshire’s decision to postpone fundraising “is an indication of a recognition by Wilshire that they need to rebuild their investment team before they can come back to the market”, the pension report said. The firm closed Fund VIII, its most recent fund, on $615 million last May.

According to the Suffolk investment bulletin, Wilshire Associates, the parent company of Wilshire Private Markets, was taking one third of the income from the private equity business. Wilshire Associates will now keep these profits in the private equity team “for a limited period in order to provide additional incentives to retain and attract investment professionals”, the report said.

Wilshire has experienced heavy turnover since the firm hired BlackRock veteran Kevin Nee as president of the private equity division last July. In August, the firm lost Daniel Allen, head of the European private equity team, who left after 26 years with Wilshire.

Jacques Youssefmir, a managing director responsible for the fund of funds global co-investment process, and Laurie Coggan, chief operating officer, also left the firm.

“We have a team of more than 40 professionals in our five offices throughout the world, including 10 people at managing director level or higher,” Nee told PEO at the time. “We consider that a robust team of professionals. We built the team so the departure of any individual won’t present any issues with the execution of our investment strategy.”

Wilshire Private Markets commits money to small to mid-market buyout and venture capital managers, as well as distressed investment funds. The firm has about $6 billion under management.