In close to five years at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, Mike McCook transformed the largest pension fund in the US into a global powerhouse among institutional investors in real estate. Though he left his post earlier this year, McCook's influence on CalPERS investment strategy—and, by extension, the institutional investor community as a whole—will resonate for years to come.
Under his tenure, CalPERS grew a primarily domestic-focused real estate program into a diversified international portfolio with investments in more than 20 countries around the world, including key emerging markets like China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe. At the same time, McCook more than doubled the number of programs in CalPERS' real estate portfolio.
By the looks of it, his strategy is paying off: The pension fund achieved a whopping 39 percent return in 2005, the last full year under his management. And over the five-year period ending September 30, 2005, CalPERS saw real estate returns of more than 16 percent.
“Our performance has exceeded every benchmark that we had,” McCook told PERE earlier this year. “When you do that and there aren't a lot of complaints, from either partners or union sources, then you must be doing your job right.”
Like many LPs, McCook is now looking to translate that success to the private sector. The 33-year real estate industry veteran recently became the president of San Francisco-based private equity real estate firm Kenwood Investments, which specializes in residential and in-fill mixed use projects in California.