Flush State Of Maine Makes Second-Ever PE Pledge

The Maine Public Employees Retirement System recently approved a pledge of $30 million to distressed debt specialist Oaktree Capital Management’s OCM Opportunities Fund VIII LP, as the pension fund continues to ramp up a nascent private equity program.

In June the limited partner made its premier pledge to private equity with a slug of $30 million going to mega-fund Hellman & Friedman Capital Partners VII LP.

In the coming year, the pension fund will likely commit between $100 million and $200 million to the asset class, said Andrew Sawyer, chief investment officer for the $8 billion pension fund. The intent is to invest across a broad array of strategies, including buyouts, distressed, mezzanine funds and possibly venture capital. The investments will be allocated based on “deal flow and our interest in those deals,” said Sawyer.

In March 2009, the pension fund hired California-based Cliffwater LLC to provide non-discretionary consulting services for its private equity program. In October, the Cliffwater relationship was expanded to include a $100 million discretionary mandate that encompasses investing in young secondaries over the next two years. Maine does not have a strict definition of “young secondaries,” Sawyer said, noting that it generally refers to buying stakes in funds in which capital commitments are not completely drawn down. “Our definition is intentionally broad,” he added. The Cliffwater mandate is in addition to the $100 million to $200 million that might be committed in the coming year.

Sawyer, who joined the pension fund in February 2008, helped to develop the private equity program, which has a 5 percent target allocation. He hopes to reach that goal in three to four years. Maine also has target allocations of 10 percent to real estate and 5 percent to infrastructure.