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LA County Pension Nabs CIO from New Mexico

Jonathan Grabel will be Lacera’s next investment chief, II has learned, hired after a long search by the $50 billion pension system.

  • Leanna Orr

After nearly two years without a permanent chief investment officer, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association has hired Jonathan Grabel from the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico.

Grabel is joining the $50 billion California fund after three years as CIO for New Mexico’s $15 billion retirement portfolio, Gregg Rademacher, chief executive officer of Lacera, confirmed. Grabel’s former deputy, Jude Perez, has temporarily taken over his duties at New Mexico’s pension plan, which is inviting candidates to apply for the CIO role by the end of April, according to its website.

Lacera’s last CIO, David Kushner, resigned in May 2015 for unknown reasons. The pension fund’s investment board Chair David Green said that hiring a new CIO and “addressing delegation and communication issues between the board, staff, and consultants” was a goal last year, according to minutes of Lacera’s February board meeting.

After Kushner left, Principal Investment Officer Vache Mahseredjian picked up his duties as interim CIO, the pension fund’s documents show, while Lacera hired recruitment firm Korn Ferry to assist in the search for a permanent replacement. At least one candidate advanced to serious consideration before withdrawing from the process, according to a person with knowledge of the search.

Lacera paid Kushner $287,413 in total compensation in 2015, the latest available public records show, including a salary of $184,291, benefits worth $58,497, and $44,625 in bonuses and other pay. This package ranked Kushner fifth among California public fund CIOs, but well behind CalPERS’ Ted Eliopoulos ($947,000), CalSTRS’ Chris Ailman ($746,000), San Francisco’s William Coaker ($634,000), and San Mateo County’s Michael Coultrip ($355,000).

Grabel arrives at Lacera having led two U.S. public funds — New Mexico’s and Montgomery County Public Schools near Washington, D.C. — after more than a decade in private equity.

“We are excited to welcome Mr. Grabel to the Lacera team,” Rademacher said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of experience from both public pension plans and investment management firms and we look forward to his contribution in delivering financial security for our members.”