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CalPERS CIO resigns to invest in cleantech

Russell Read looks to become an environmental rainmaker after a two-year stint at the $244bn US pension.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s chief investment officer, Russell Read, has resigned to pursue cleantech investing, effective 30 June.

A spokesman declined to comment as to whether Read would join an existing venture or private equity firm, launch a fund or do something unrelated to typical alternative investment firms.

Read joined CalPERS in June 2006 from Deutsche Asset Management, where he chaired its Americas investment committee and was responsible for more than $250 billion (€158 billion) in equity, fixed income and commodity-based investment products for institutional and retail investors. He replaced Mark Anson, who left CalPERS to head London-based Hermes Pensions Management, the pensions management arm of the BT pension scheme.

Under Read’s leadership, CalPERS grew its investment portfolio by roughly $33 billion, and increased real estate assets from $15 billion as of June 30, 2006 to $20.6 billion as of the end of February this year. Read helped more than doubled the pension's private equity program assets to $22.8 billion from $11.3 billion. His achievements were rewarded last fiscal year with a $403,070 bonus on top of his $555,360 annual salary.

In his resignation letter to CalPERS’ board, Read credited the pension’s investment staff with accomplishments made, which include establishment of an inflation-linked asset class, CalPERS said. He also reportedly said working with CalPERS’ board, staff and members had been “the greatest experience in his investment career”.

Responding to the letter State Controller John Chiang said California had been “lucky to have Russell Read investing on their behalf” adding: “Russell’s talents are reflected in the more than 19 percent growth in CalPERS assets last year.  His creativity helped formulate new strategies that recognize opportunities in areas such as clean technology, green building and emerging markets. I wish Russell the best in the next chapter of his career.”

Read was previously the socioeconomic advisor for the Forest BioProducts Research Project at the University of Maine and head of the finance committee of the Fractional Development Center, a center that focuses on converting wood into energy and materials.

The board’s investment committee chair, George Diehr, wished Read well in a statement. “He has great enthusiasm for environmental and clean technology investments and we look forward to hearing about his future endeavors in sustainability investments as that sector grows in the capital markets.”

CalPERS said its board will soon meet to discuss next steps for appointing Read’s replacement. A spokesman told PEO it “will probably take a few months to find a successor”. Typically, he said, the pension does a global search for the CIO position, but added it’s not unusual for CalPERS’ senior investment staff to apply as well.