Eric Mason Joins Church Pension Fund

Eric Mason reportedly has joined Church Pension Fund, the Episcopal Church’s $8 billion pension system, to open a Hong Kong office. He previously was with The Carlyle Group, where he led a now-defunct Asian leveraged finance group.

Update: HONG KONG, April 16 (Reuters Basis Point) – Veteran banker Eric Mason has joined the Church Pension Fund (CPF), a $7.45 billion investment fund which administers the clergy pension plan for the Episcopal Church, according to media reports.

Mason has been hired to open a Hong Kong office for the CPF, the first for the fund in Asia, according to the reports.

According to information on the fund’s website, its normal investment allocation is 65 percent equity and 35 percent fixed income.

Since 1992, the fund has diversified its holdings, and has a stronger interest in private equity and real estate.

From 1996, private equity investments outside the United States became a stronger focus, initially in Europe and Israel, then expanding to Asia.

It is not known if the fund will make direct investments in assets in Asia. According to a report on its website, the fund’s investment portfolio declined 18.8 percent in 2008. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPX declined 37 percent over the same period.

Preliminary figures from December 31, 2008, show the fund’s assets at $7.45 billion and liabilities at $6.2 billion.

Mason is a former JP Morgan banker who was co-head of the bank’s Hong Kong-based Asia syndicated and leveraged finance team before leaving to set up the Carlyle Group’s [CYL.UL] Asian Leveraged Finance Unit (CALF) in 2007.

Said to be Asia’s first dedicated leveraged finance team among private equity funds, Carlyle closed down CALF in November 2008 after it struggled to find investment capital amid the market downturn.

The original mission of the fund was to be an institutional investor in primary syndicated loans, according to one bank source at that time.

Mason did not return calls requesting confirmation of the media reports. (Reporting by Stephen Aldred; Editing by Chris Lewis)