CDPQ taps Martin Laguerre to lead $39bn private equity operation

CDPQ's allocation to private equity is the global market’s fourth-largest, according to Private Equity International’s Global Investor 100 (2020).

Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of the world’s largest investors in private equity, selected Martin Laguerre to oversee its PE and capital solutions platforms.

The appointment, made earlier this month, followed the resignation of Macky Tall, CDPQ’s head of private equity and real assets. Tall, a 16-year CDPQ veteran and previously president and CEO of CDPQ Infra, will in 2021 join Carlyle Group as co-chair of the PE giant’s infrastructure group.

Laguerre was hired by CDPQ in 2019 as managing director of capital solutions, a unit focused on specialty finance, quasi-equity and opportunistic credit. He was formerly with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, working for four years as a senior principal in the power and renewables group.

Prior to CPPIB, Laguerre was managing director of General Electric’s power and water and renewables divisions. He began his career in investment banking and investment management, working for outfits like Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers.

Laguerre is the fourth head of CDPQ’s PE platform in a little over 12 months. Tall assumed the job in early 2020 from Charles Émond, who was in January named CDPQ’s president and CEO. Émond, in turn, took over in late 2019 from Stephane Etroy, who left to become Ares Management’s head of European private equity.

Laguerre inherits a portfolio with more than C$50 billion ($39 billion) of net assets as of December 2019. CDPQ’s allocation to private equity is the global market’s fourth-largest according to Private Equity International’s Global Investor 100 (2020).

The PE strategy has changed significantly in recent years. CDPQ has been aggressively ramping up high-return direct investing, especially during Etroy’s tenure. More than 75 percent of portfolio assets today consist of co-sponsorships and co-investments. Roughly a decade ago, fund investing drove the strategy.

In addition, while CDPQ does direct deals alongside fund partners – mostly brand-name PE firms like Blackstone and KKR – these are fewer today compared with several years ago. CDPQ is doing more deals with non-fund partners, such as corporations, entrepreneurs, family offices and institutions.

Direct investing this year included participation in Madison Dearborn Partners’ take-private acquisition of packaging solutions maker IPL Plastics. The deal had an enterprise value of C$981 million. CDPQ also joined Qatar Investment Authority and other investors in an $800 million financing that launched Lloyd’s of London insurer Inigo.

CDPQ also exited a major investment due to covid-19-induced dislocation. Cirque du Soleil, a high-profile circus troupe acquired in 2015 by a TPG-led group that included CDPQ, filed for creditor protection before selling itself in November to senior lenders.

Laguerre will operate from New York and Montreal. With his appointment, he becomes a member of the executive committee of CDPQ, Canada’s second-largest pension system with C$333 billion of net assets as of June 2020.

Action item: See Martin Laguerre’s biography here.