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04 March 2020
MOVES

Saudi Arabia’s PIF parts ways with three executives

The departures risk stymieing those efforts as Saudi Arabia is counting on its global investments to help wean the Kingdom away from its dependence on oil

Some executives say the PIF lacks the governance and controls that are expected in a fund of its size/Bloomberg

by Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Kingdom sovereign wealth fund, has parted ways with at least three senior investment executives in recent months in what may be a blow to the state investor’s ambitions to expand into a global giant.

Dennis Johnson, the Chief Strategy Officer who had been in his role since 2018 has left, as well as Martin Botha, the Head of Risk.

Similarly, Hassan Chehime, the Head of Investment Risk, who had been with the PIF for about a year, also left the fund.

The $320 billion sovereign wealth fund, run by Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been building out its bench of global and local managers as it steps up deal-making in a bid to become the world’s biggest.

Johnson is the fund’s second Head of Strategy to leave in two years. Eric Ebermeyer left in 2018, just weeks after joining. Botha was one of the fund’s first senior hires in 2016.

PIF said that it has expanded from having 40 employees in 2016 to nearly 700 to date, with plans to expand to more than 1,000 by year end. Staff turnover is exceptionally low and is well below both industry and MENA region averages, said PIF.

Since late 2019, the fund hired approximately 15 senior executives who are a mix of top-tier leaders from both Saudi Arabia and international business centres. Jerry Todd, former Head of Business Development Capital, was hired in a senior role to help run its strategy.

Some executives say the PIF lacks the governance and controls that are expected in a fund of its size. A lack of analysis and consultation in making decisions has contributed to turnover at the fund, where the Crown Prince exerts considerable control in choosing investments.

High-profile investments in Uber Technologies and SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund came after Prince Mohammed personally met with top leaders at the firms.

The PIF has made a series of significant investments in recent years, with a mixed track record. It paid almost $49 a share for a stake in Uber Technologies in 2017, a level the company hasn’t reached since.

The fund also built a roughly $2 billion stake in Elon Musk’s Tesla in 2018 and sold almost all of the shares toward the end of 2019, missing out on an almost 80 per cent rally this year. PIF also made a $45 billion commitment to SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

 


RELATED STORIES: Uber Technologies SoftBank Group Public Investment Fund

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