CalPERS losing investment chief

Times Staff Writer

The giant CalPERS pension fund is losing its investment chief to the green movement.

In a surprise, Russell Read -- who has been principal investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System for just two years -- told the pension system’s board this week that he’s leaving June 30.

Read, 44, said in a letter to the board that he was quitting “to pursue my long-standing interest in environmental and clean-technology investing.”

He said by phone from a meeting in New Orleans that his plans weren’t fully formed.


He isn’t sure if he’ll try to manage his own investment fund or build a business in some other way. Whatever the model, he said, he wanted to help bring together what he viewed as now “disconnected efforts” worldwide to develop and implement the best green technologies.

“I might have the ability to play a major role in something that I think is of absolute paramount importance,” he said.

Read said he hadn’t planned to depart CalPERS this soon, but that events in the mushrooming green-investing industry overtook his own timing. “I didn’t anticipate [its] rapid development,” he said.

Yet Read, who holds a PhD in economics from Stanford University and earned $958,000 at CalPERS last year, knows plenty about green investing. He has long been a private investor in Maine timberland and is involved in a hardwood reforestation project there.


Read has been pushing the $242-billion CalPERS fund, the nation’s largest public pension fund, to shift a chunk of its assets away from stocks and bonds and into commodities, such as oil and timberlands, as well as into public-private partnerships that build infrastructure projects.

One new CalPERS’ initiative is a 10-year, $600-million commitment to private-equity funds that are focused on investing in companies developing new energy sources, anti-pollution devices, recycling technologies and other green efforts.

Anne Stausboll, CalPERS’ assistant executive officer for investments, will take over as interim investment chief, CalPERS said.

Read came to CalPERS from New York-based Deutsche Asset Management.