SAN FRANCISCO, April 23 (Reuters) – The chief investment officer of Calpers is resigning to pursue environmental investments after nearly two years overseeing assets at the biggest U.S. pension fund, a fund spokesman said on Wednesday.
Russell Read, who oversaw a robust 19.1 percent return for Calpers in 2007, joined the pension fund in June 2006 and has led the $244 billion fund toward investing in environmental opportunities as well as into infrastructure and commodities, helping it post four years of consecutive double-digit returns.
Read, who also has been serving as head of an advisory panel on practices in the hedge fund industry for the President's Working Group on Financial Markets, could not be reached for comment about his decision to step down — which caught other pension fund professionals by surprise.
“I was shocked by the news just like about everybody,” Christopher Ailman, Read's counterpart at sister fund Calstrs, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, told Reuters.
Read's move into commodities proved a boon to the California Public Employees' Retirement System, best known as Calpers, but at the time it was considered a risky move, Ailman said, noting he did not follow his counterpart's example.
“That timing was darned near perfect when he made that call,” Ailman said.
Anne Stausboll, the chief investment operating officer at Calpers, will replace Read on an interim basis.
She was a deputy to former California state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who was appointed in June 2004 to work with senior investment officers at Calpers on investment strategies for real estate, alternative investment and public market portfolios.
Read's resignation is “effective at the end of the fiscal year, June 30,” said Calpers spokesman Brad Pacheco. “Basically, he told the board he wants to pursue his interest in environmental investing.”
Before joining Calpers, Read served as a deputy chief investment officer for Deutsche Asset Management and Scudder Investments, served as an adviser for the Forest BioProducts Research Project at the University of Maine and as chairman of the finance committee for Maine's Fractionation Development Center.
The latter center researches transforming wood into energy and materials produced from crude oil. “You can tell he has a passion when it comes to timber because his eyes light up when he talks about it,” Ailman said, referring to Read.
Interim replacement Stausboll has also overseen searches for external managers, advisers and pension consultants, coordinates internal investment policy and represents Calpers on investment-related legislation.
Stausboll serves on the board of Ceres, a national network of investors and public interest groups working with companies to address environmental issues, including climate change.
By Jim Christie
(Editing by Adam Tanner/Jan Paschal/Braden Reddall)