Harvard Management Co. Inc., Cambridge, Mass., last year sold private equity partnership interests, sources said. "We can't comment," said Kathleen Amerault, spokeswoman for Harvard Management, which oversees $19.3 billion for Harvard's endowment.
So far, pension plans, endowments and foundations that have sold their private equity limited partnership interests have been an elite group.
"Sellers in this market are located around the world and often have demanding price and non-price objectives," wrote Geoffrey G. Clark and J. Christopher Kojima, managing directors in the private equity group of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, New York, in their recent paper on the secondary market.
"As measured by private equity commitments, the largest constituency of potential sellers has emerged to be sophisticated institutions. These investors typically are not in financial distress, but are focused on actively managing their private equity investments."
Already this year, a corporate and a public U.S. pension plan have approached Coller executives with large private equity portfolios of more than $150 million each for sale, Coller's Mr. Jones said. He wouldn't identify them.
Among those considering joining the ranks of sellers is the $116 billion San Francisco City & County Employees' Retirement System; the $11.5 billion Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana, Baton Rouge; and General Motors Asset Management, New York, which oversees GM's $82 billion pension fund.
At the San Francisco fund, executives are in the early phases of formulating a policy on selling and buying private equity on the secondary market, said Clare Murphy, executive director.
"It's conceivable to have a circumstance where the plan would benefit with sales of private equity, depending on the degree to which the market evolves," Ms. Murphy said. "We have a very mature portfolio. We would need to determine whether to sell a tail end of holdings versus the sale of a recent participation in a 2- or 3-year old private equity participation. We're spending time understanding the complications."
San Francisco's alternative investment committee is not expected to decide on a secondary private equity policy until at least its May meeting. Depending on the committee's actions, the policy could come before the full board in July or August, she said.
Although Louisiana Teachers does not invest in secondary private equity, executives would consider selling partnerships if they saw the right deal, said Bonita Brown, director. The fund has surpassed its 8% target allocation by three percentage points, and fund executives would sell limited partnerships to return to the target, she said.
"It's always a possibility, but we have not seen a deal we like," Ms. Brown said. "We talked to (the fund's private equity consultant, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based) Hamilton Lane about it.
"We don't have a sale policy in place. We would have to explore each possibility as it comes up."