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Exclusive: Christie confidant Bob Grady joins private equity firm

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Bob Grady, a close confidant of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former chairman of the $81 billion New Jersey Investment Council, has agreed to join mid-market private equity firm Gryphon Investors as a partner, Fortune has learned. He also will lead Gryphon’s general industries group, which is one of the San Francisco-based firm’s four areas of investment focus.

Grady and Gryphon CEO David Andrews were classmates at Stanford Business School in the 1980’s, and have remained close friends ever since.

When Grady stepped down from the NJ Investment Council chairmanship last November, we reported that he was considering whether or not to continue on with his day job as a managing director with private equity fund-of-funds manager Cheyenne Capital. He ultimately decided to move on, citing a desire to be more involved with direct investing.

“I remain very friendly with Cheyenne and will be a senior advisor, probably pro bono,” Grady explains. “But this is a way for me to get back to investing in companies and helping them achieve their goals which, for me, is a little more satisfying than the fund-of-funds business.”

Grady has plenty of experience in direct investing, having joined Robertson Stephens & Co. after leaving the White House in 1993, where he had served as deputy assistant to President George H.W. Bush and executive associate director of the Office of Management and Budget. He then went on to spend nine years with The Carlyle Group (CG), as head of global venture capital and growth capital investing.

But it was his experience with New Jersey’s pension system that really generated headlines, particularly after pay-to-play allegations were raised last year against a venture capital firm that had received NJ Investment Council money (a state attorney later exonerated the firm and NJIC staff, but not before NJIC sold off the investment to a third party).

Grady, a New Jersey native, originally took the unpaid NJ Investment Council position as a favor to Chris Christie, after Christie was elected governor. There has been some suggestion that Grady could be a major part of any Christie presidential run, particularly given his past political experience. But Grady insists that his decision to take a new private equity position — even for a firm that is in the early days of raising a new fund — should not be read as reflective of Christie’s political plans.

“He has not told us anything one way or the other,” Grady says. “If he does choose to run, I’m sure I’d be involved on a volunteer basis to support and help him, whether that’s with policy or writing speeches or whatever, but that has nothing to do with what’s really just a switch of day jobs.”

Grady primarily will work out of Jackson, Wyoming, where he has lived for years. Gryphon has never received investment from the NJ state pension system.

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