SACRAMENTO, CA – Ted Eliopoulos was in charge of the real estate investments division at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in 2007, just before the financial and real estate crash.
“Housing prices were sliding, subprime mortgage lenders were declaring bankruptcy, and financial markets were going haywire — and Eliopoulos was saddled with some extremely risky bets the nation’s largest public pension fund had made on real estate. With the portfolio poised for disaster, he had two choices: Hit the brakes or step on the gas,” the LA Times reported in a substantial profile of the Greek-American with a huge responsibility.
“Eliopoulos cautiously tapped on the brakes, but it was too little too late — CalPERS’ real estate portfolio went off a cliff. And kept falling. By the end of September 2009, the portfolio’s value had plunged by almost half, wiping out more than $9 billion. CalPERS has yet to recover,” the article continued.
“Eliopoulos’ cautious instincts and methodical investment style now matter more than ever,” the Times writes, adding “Last fall, CalPERS’ governing board installed the 50-year-old former Ivy League tennis star as its new chief investment officer, with a salary this year of $717,000, including incentives…He may be the most important person California taxpayers have never heard of.”
His job is to pay the paying benefits to 1.7 million current and future retirees.
The Times points out Eliopoulos’ appointment feels like an odd choice, noting, “Trained as a lawyer, not an investment professional, Eliopoulos has spent much of his career in state bureaucracies and had never directly managed stocks or bonds — more than 70% of the total CalPERS portfolio — before being named interim chief investment officer a year ago.”
Phil Angelides, former state Treasurer and Democratic Party Chairman, “called Eliopoulos, whom he mentored, a methodical thinker and steady manager,” the Times writes, and quoted Angelides that “He’s not threatened by having good, strong people around him,” Angelides said.
Eliopoulos is a native of San Mateo, Calif., the son of a public middle school teacher and an office assistant who were active in the area’s Greek American community.
At Dartmouth College he was an All Ivy League doubles tennis player, and while atttending the University of Virginia School of Law, he worked as a real estate lawyer for Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles.
His philosophy may be just as important as his resume” “We’re a long-term investor…We try not to get distracted by short-term viewpoints and noise,” he said.
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