CalPERS gets new private equity boss

May 31, 2011, 9:31 PM UTC

Real Desrochers

The nation’s largest public pension system names its choice to run the nation’s largest private equity program.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) today will announce that it has hired Real Desrochers as senior investment officer for its $49 billion private equity investment program. Fortune had first predicted the hire back in March.

It is, quite simply, the best possible choice for a program beset by scandals (both real and imagined).

Desrochers spent 11 years running alternatives for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), during which time he was known for strong returns and a refusal to entertain “political” deals. He retired from CalSTRS in 2009, and most recently served as CIO of the Saudi Arabian Investment Company.

“I’m extremely confident in Réal Desrochers and his skills leading our team of investment professionals,” said Joe Dear, chief investment officer of CalPERS, in a formal statement. “He did a fine job in overseeing the private equity program of our sister fund, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), generating annual returns of more than 17 percent in the decade that he was there. He also worked for Caisse de Depot of Quebec, Canada’s largest pension plan for more than 11 years before joining CalSTRS. Our AIM Program is in good hands and will suffer no interruption in its investment plan or Board policy.”

Dear was on vacation and not available for further comment. CalPERS said that it does not plan to make Desrochers available until he’s been on the job for a few weeks, but did not provide his actual start date.