Wisconsin Commits $570 Million to Six Funds

The State of Wisconsin Investment Board invested aggressively in private equity and real estate in November, committing an impressive $570 million, splitting it among six vehicles, according to Vicki Hearing, a spokesman for the pension fund.

Commitments by the $80 billion pension system include pledges to some of the biggest names in private equity and real estate, including The Blackstone Group, Leonard Green & Partners, Providence Equity Partners and Vista Equity Partners.

The investments are consistent with Wisconsin’s latest plans, revealed this year, to commit more than $6 billion of fresh money to private equity by 2016. Overall, Wisconsin oversees $13.6 billion in private equity commitments, including $5.5 billion in invested private equity capital.

Wisconsin’s biggest new commitment, for $150 million, was made to Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII LP, a giant $10 billion offering that had a $4 billion interim close earlier this year. The fund is only slightly smaller than the $10.9 billion that Blackstone raised for the prior fund in the series, Fund VI, in 2008. Other investors in Fund VII include the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System.

Wisconsin also pledged $100 million each to Green Equity Investors VI LP, Providence Equity Partners VII LP and Vista Equity Partners Fund IV LP.

Green’s Fund VI will focus on retail and consumer chains. The firm’s prior investments have included such high profile chains as Whole Foods, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Neiman Marcus. Green’s Fund VI has gathered substantial interest from public pensions, including the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, the Ohio School Employees’ Retirement System, the New Mexico State Investment Council and the Washington State Investment Board.

Providence’s Fund VII will focus on leading media and education companies. The firm has been known for investing in such high profile companies as the YES Network and Hulu, the Web site for videos. Providence’s newest fund has targeted $8 billion, substantially less than the $12 billion the firm raised for Fund VI in 2007. Providence’s has garnered several commitments for Fund VII, including the Washington State Investment Board and Massachusetts Pension Reserves Asset Management.

San Francisco-based Vista Equity, which focuses on software and technology, has led a very strong fundraising effort for its latest fund, Fund IV. The fund has a target of $2.5 billion and has garnered commitments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, Massachusetts Pension Reserves Asset Management, the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association and the Oregon State Investment Council.

Wisconsin committed $70 million to Oaktree Capital Management‘s Oaktree Capital European Principal Fund III LP, a European distressed debt fund that closed with $4 billion in commitments in early December. Other investors in the fund include the Maine Public Employees’ Retirement System, the South Carolina Retirement System, the New Mexico Public Employees’ Retirement Association, the Texas County & District Retirement System and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Finally, Wisconsin pledged $50 million to Kohlberg & Company‘s Kohlberg Investors VII LP, a mid-market private equity fund that is hoping to raise $1.5 billion. The firm was started by James Kohlberg, who left Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in 1987 to start his own firm. Other investors in Kohlberg’s Fund VII include the Louisiana Teachers’ Retirement System.