After a Two-Year Search, CalPERS Finally Hires Private Equity Head

Greg Ruiz, who has family ties to the fund, will take over from interim Sarah Corr.

The California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) concluded a two-year search at its Monday board meeting when Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng announced it had hired Greg Ruiz to lead the $360 billion pension organization’s private equity division.

Ruiz, a private equity lifer, previously worked at Palo Alto-based Altamont Capital Partners. He started at Goldman Sachs, later moving to FFL Partners. He is a principal at Altamont, specializing in consumer, business services, and tech investments.

Ruiz’s hiring is to replace Real Desrochers, who left the fund in 2017 to join Chinese bank CITIC. Sarah Corr had been filling the role in the interim since Desrochers’ departure.

Ruiz joins as CIO Meng is looking to accelerate the fund’s direct investment strategy for its private equity business. The pension plan wants to bring more staff in-house and harness more assets while cutting back on manager fees (it paid more than $700 million in fiscal 2018). At its March board meeting, the fund approved plans to create two private equity organizations, Innovation and Horizon, in which it would invest up to $20 billion.

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Private equity is the fund’s best-performing portfolio, having returned 10.5% annually over the past 20 years. It currently makes up 7.6% of the fund’s assets, but Meng wants more, especially since it has shrunk from 2013, when the PE portfolio was about 12% of CalPERS’s assets.

Meng said Ruiz has a “keen understanding” of what successful private equity demands are. But there’s another affinity he has with CalPERS, other than his investment background.

He has family in the pension system.

At the plan’s Monday investment meeting, Meng said this fun fact further incentivizes Ruiz as “his commitment to our mission is already very strong.”

Meng added that coming to CalPERS is “just like coming home” for Ruiz, who the CIO said grew up “just down the street” in Davis.

Meng also praised Corr for her work as interim head.

“Her leadership and skills have been essential to the success [of the] asset class and I cannot thank her [enough] for all she has done,” he said.

Ruiz will start sometime in the summer. He was unable to be reached for comment.

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