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UPDATE 2-Canada Pension CEO to retire, Mark Wiseman to take helm
February 28, 2012 / 6:15 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 2-Canada Pension CEO to retire, Mark Wiseman to take helm

* Wiseman to be CEO when Denison retires in June

* Wiseman a 7-year veteran of the fund

* Pledges to continue global focus

By Andrea Hopkins

Feb 28 (Reuters) - The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board said on Tuesday its head of investments will take the helm when its current CEO retires in June, preserving continuity as the C$150 billion fund tries to cement its reach as one of the world’s biggest dealmakers.

Mark Wiseman, executive vice president and head of investments at the CPPIB, will take over as chief executive when current CEO David Denison retires in June, the fund said.

Wiseman, 41, and a seven-year veteran of the pension fund, currently oversees CPPIB’s global investment program and has been a key player in its move to a more active investment strategy.

Denison informed the board of directors in 2009 of his intent to retire in 2012, triggering a long-term succession plan. Board Chairman Robert Astley praised Denison for reshaping the pension fund into one capable of undertaking the largest and most complex deals in the world.

Astley also said that Wiseman has been instrumental in shaping CPPIB’s strategy over the last seven years.

“We undertook a deliberate process, determined to select a successor who would continue to provide outstanding leadership. The board unanimously agreed Mark Wiseman was the ideal choice,” Astley said in a statement.

Wiseman, who earned his stripes at the C$110 billion Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan before moving over to the CPPIB in 2005, said the fund will continue its global focus.

“I look forward to taking the helm at a time when CPPIB is playing an increasingly important role globally, investing in order to ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of the CPP Reserve Fund,” he said in a statement.

Former CPPIB colleague and pension consultant John Ilkiw said Wiseman’s ascension to the top of the fund, which manages investments for Canada’s public pension system, comes as little surprise.

“It is well planned, and well earned,” said Ilkiw, who was a senior vice president at CPPIB alongside Wiseman for five years from 2005 to 2010.

”There are some individuals who can smell a margin a mile away,“ Ilkiw said. ”They have this natural ability to understand balance sheets and legal contracts, (to know) the right people to hire to implement strategies, and who have the willingness to take a well-founded calculated risk. That’s Mark.

“He is very clear about what the potential upside and what the potential downside is. An awful lot of success, especially of the private equity programs at the CPPIB, can find its traces to Mark Wiseman, and indeed that’s why he was hired from the Teachers’ originally.”

The CPPIB switched gears in 2006 when it started to move away from passive investments to make more private equity deals and shape strategy at companies and projects, mostly in real estate and infrastructure.

Braving crisis-shaken markets in 2009, the CPPIB ventured outside traditional pension fund investment parameters to join a consortium to buy a majority stake in Internet phone service Skype.

It flipped the asset less than two years later for a more than a threefold gain, a turnaround normally unheard of at pension funds, which usually prefer buy-and-hold kinds of investments such as bridges and highways.

Wiseman said in an interview in December that CPPIB will continue to build its global reach by buying into projects that need money at a time that much of the rest of the world is retrenching.

“We have about two dozen people in Hong Kong, close to four dozen in our London office. (You) will continue to see us evolve globally,” Wiseman told Reuters in the interview. “And I think you’ll see us continue to hone our skills and our abilities to do complex skills that play back into those comparative advantages, so we can execute on deals that others can‘t.”

As the global financial crisis boiled in 2009, CPPIB had a hand in three of the top five global private equity deals of the year, including the largest leveraged buyout: the $4 billion acquisition of IMS Health Inc, a prescription drug sales data provider.

Next, it was involved in the largest global private equity deal of 2010, the C$5.0 billion leveraged buyout of Tomkins Plc, a British maker of car parts, industrial hoses and bathtubs, which it did in conjunction with Onex Corp.

CPP has a 75-year investment horizon, with contributions exceeding benefits paid until at least 2021.

Before Teachers, Wiseman worked at Harrowston Inc, a publicly traded Canadian merchant bank, and as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, practicing in New York and Paris. He was also a former law clerk to Beverley McLachlin, who is now chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

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