Mark Machin, who left the CEO position on the Canada Retirement Plan Investment Board after his controversial decision to travel internationally for a COVID-19 vaccine, has emerged as CEO of a new investment firm.
Mr. Machin co-founded Opto Investments Inc. Based in New York, the company plans to help registered investment advisors, or RIAs, in the United States access the type of private market and alternative assets that make up a significant part of the CPPIB portfolio.
Opto Investments co-founders include Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, who will be president of the company, and Jacob Miller, formerly of Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates.
CPPIB forced Mr Machin to resign as CEO in February 2021, after he traveled to the UAE and received the COVID-19 vaccine before it was widely available in Canada and while the Canadian government was advising against non-essential travel. Mr. Machin obtained permission to fly, but the CPPIB board was unaware of his vaccine plans, sources told The Globe and Mail at the time.
Sources also told The Globe that Mr. Machin told CPPIB’s board in the fall of 2020 that he planned to leave in 2021 after five years at the helm. The complexity of the vaccine has speeded up the schedule.
CPPIB said later in 2021 that Mr. Machin, who remained as chancellor until mid-August, had not received any severance pay and his departure was being treated as retirement. He earned $3.98 million in his final year, consisting of $625,000 in salary, an annual bonus of over $1 million, and other long-term compensation and pensions.
CPPIB said that as long as it adheres to a non-competitive arrangement, its deferred compensation, which is linked to the performance of the CPPIB fund, will continue to accrue until its awards are due, some of which are until late 2026. CPPIB declined to comment on Tuesday on whether Opto considers the project a competitor to CPPIB. Mr. Machin was not available for comment Tuesday.
Mr. Machin is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Government of Singapore Investments, the Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund and an advisor on the Portfolio Strategies Committee.
Over the two-and-a-half decades of CPPIB, I have gone from a passive investor to an active owner of a wide range of assets not easily accessible to ordinary Canadians. On June 30, the private equity and real-asset investment departments had $259 billion, nearly half of the $523 billion portfolio. Real estate assets include infrastructure, real estate, and renewable energy.
Opto said Tuesday it has received $145 million in funding from Tiger Global and other financiers including Lonsdale’s 8VC and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital.
The company bases its business plan on the idea that the vast majority of individual investors have little access to private investments, with the average wealth advisor putting only 0 percent to 4 percent of a portfolio in those asset classes.
Opto says it has created a platform to give RIAs access to exclusive private market investments. Opto says the platform runs the process from start to finish: from sourcing, diligence, and sharing of funds; To monitor positions, schedule capital calls, service investors and prepare reports.
The company has 45 employees and says it has already partnered with more than 80 entrepreneurial agencies.