Stymied, Hacking Opts for Ariz.

James Hacking, a pension system veteran, is leaving Illinois for the sunny climate of Arizona. Hacking gave notice on June 10 that he will resign as executive director of the Illinois State Universities Retirement System (SURS). In August, he will begin as director of the Arizona Public Safety Retirement System in Phoenix.

Hacking cites his growing frustration with the Illinois state government as one factor that propelled him to accept Arizona’s offer. “Basically all of my time and attention is engaged in a struggle to get the state to give the system the funding it requires,” says Hacking. “That has become a full time and annually repeating challenge.”

While the funds managed by the Arizona Public Retirement System were less than half that of the capital under management of Illinois SURS, Arizona’s funds were 90% funded or better. “Illinois has one of the lowest funding ratios in the country,” Hacking says.

Hacking has been with Illinois SURS since 1996. Previously, he directed the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement System and the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund. Hacking is credited with being a reformer who restores credibility to pension systems, as he entered both the Minnesota and Illinois pension systems when they were engulfed in misappropriation and embezzlement scandals.

As it searches for a replacement for Hacking, Illinois SURS is expected to soon announce an executive search firm. In the meantime, General Counsel and Deputy Executive director Dan Slack will serve as interim executive director.

SURS has about $13.3 billion under management, and 3.4% of that, or about $452 million, is in private equity. SURS is a limited partner in funds managed by buyout firms Madison Dearborn Partners, Oaktree Capital Management and Summit Partners and venture capital firms Austin Ventures, Enterprise Partners, Three Arch Partners and U.S. Venture Partners, according to Thomson Venture Economics (publisher of PE Week).