LP corner, week of Aug. 10, 2009

Maryland eyes mezz, secondary funds

The $26 billion Maryland State Retirement and Pension System is considering making pledges to vehicles that concentrate on mezzanine debt, secondaries and perhaps distressed investments.

Robert Burd, managing director of the pension fund, said that Maryland could put about $200 million into funds that invest in those strategies through the rest of 2009.

So far this year, the limited partner has made $485 million worth of pledges, according to Burd. Mega-buyout firm The Blackstone Group got a slug of $100 million for its sixth fund; buyout shops Yucaipa Cos. and TA Associates each received $50 million commitments for their latest vehicles; and ABS Capital Partners obtained a pledge of $25 million.

The LP has also shown an interest in putting money to work overseas. It committed $50 million each to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.’s latest European fund and to the third fund of Navis Capital Partners, a Malaysia-based buyout firm.

Last year, the state raised its target allocation to private equity from 5% to 15 percent. As of June 30, the actual allocation stood at 3.4 percent. In December, Dean Kenderdine, executive director of the pension fund, said that there was no set pace for reaching the target allocation, and that the process could take “a number of years.” —Nancy Gordon

Ohio FoF sees opportunity in distress

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Fort Washington Capital Partners is looking for a few good funds, especially if they’re small.

Having raised about $170 million in a tough fund-raising market, the fund of funds manager is particularly interested in vehicles that can take advantage of distress in the market, such as turnarounds, restructurings and secondaries, according to Christopher Baucom, managing director of private equity at Fort Washington.

Fort Washington held a final closing in May on about $170 million for Fort Washington Private Equity Investors VI, which had targeted $250 million. The firm previously raised $135 million for fund V, which closed in 2006.

Fort Washington Capital commits to funds of all sizes, going as small as $200 million and as high as $6 billion, but it tends to favor smaller vehicles. The firm usually commits $5 million to $10 million to each of the roughly 25 vehicles housed in its funds of funds.

The vehicle is making pledges across the 2008-2010 vintage years and has committed to about 18 firms so far, including ABRY Partners, which concentrates on the media, communications and information services sectors; Flexpoint Ford, which targets financial services and health care; HIG Bayside, which focuses on distressed investments; Great Hill Equity Partners, which invests in the business services, consumer services, media, communications and software industries; and Shasta Ventures, which invests in early stage technology-based and technology-enabled businesses.

Fort Washington Capital has also allocated “a material amount of capital” to take advantage of secondaries, Baucom says. —Nancy Gordon

Ohio LP to pledge up to $250M

The School Employees Retirement System of Ohio said it plans to commit between $150 million and $250 million to private equity partnerships in its fiscal year 2010, which began on July 1.

The limited partner said the pledges would go mostly to buyout funds, although the staff will continue to explore international and special situation funds, such as energy, secondary and distressed debt vehicles, as well as co-investment opportunities.

The LP’s private equity program has a 10% target allocation, with a range of 5% to 15 percent. As of May 31, the actual allocation to private equity was 7.8%, according to pension spokesperson Tim Barbour.

Through March 2009, the board had approved about $185 million in commitments to five private equity funds during the 2009 fiscal year. —Nancy Gordon

Illinois taps Doehla

Zak Doehla

has been named chief alternatives investments officer for the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois. He previously was an associate director of Orix USA Corp. He succeeds Lamar Villere, who left to run private equity for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.