Whatever has prompted Sir Ronald Cohen to launch a new alternative asset management firm, people are taking notice and waiting to see how the founder of Apax Partners fares. The reason for all the attention is that observers are commenting that since it’s only a year since he left Apax (where he toiled for three decades), it must be something really big that’s lured him, and that, according to Financial Times, is the growing interest in alternatives by U.K. pension plans. His new venture, Portland Capital, says the FT, will introduce funds in all those delicious alternatives hedge funds, private equity, commodities and real estate. His timing could be perfect, or then again, maybe not. ÒWe are seeing a fundamental shift from U.K. equities into global equities and alternatives, said Nina Harris of Morley Fund Management, adding that pensions funds, which currently put in only about half a percent of their assets in hedge funds, are Òdipping their toes in.Ó In fact, one in 10 polled say they are going to try hedge funds by the middle of next year. In addition, Mercer Consulting says just 6% of pension schemes invest in private equity, with an average allocation of 3%. The question is, are they entering after the bull has charged? Commodities are in the dumps, and private equity and hedge funds are raising lots of money but struggling to find worthy investments in which to spend their cache. Perhaps that’s why eyes are on Sir Ron. If he succeeds, his vision will be a sight for eyes sorely looking to make it big in alternatives.