Mass. Names New PRIM Head

February 20, 2004 ( - Former deputy state treasurer Michael Travaglini has been appointed to head up the $32 billion Massachusetts state retirement fund.

Travaglini emerged as the new executive director of Massachusetts’ Reserves Investment Management board (PRIM) from a nationwide search and review of130 job candidates, a candidate pool that included executives from major investment firms and experienced pension managers from other states.   In the end though, it was Travaglini, the brother of the state Senate president, who assumed the reins of the state pension fund’s $225,000 a year director post, according to a Boston Globe report.

“It was a unanimous decision with no arm-twisting whatsoever,” J. Nicholas Hurd, managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates, the recruiting firm hired for $75,000 to fill the fund’s executive director job told the Globe.   “I’m proud of the process and I’m proud of the result.”

Travaglini is not at a loss for Massachusetts pension fund experience.   He once ran the City of Boston’s retirement fund, where some referred to the Harvard graduate as “Little Trav.”

The move comes after the sudden departure of the former executive director of the fund James Hearty earlier this month (See  MA Pension Director to Step Down ).   Hearty’s move came after state Treasurer Timothy Cahill surprised Hearty and others in local financial circles in August when he said he had the votes on the board to dump Hearty, 51, and replace him with Steven Weddle, a little-known investment banker who spent the last decade investing in start-ups and economic development projects in southern Africa (SeeMA Pension Executive Hit With Sudden Ouster ).

Cahill’s move sparked a backlash, as Hearty was popular and respected in the financial community. Prior to becoming pension fund director, Hearty had been a financial executive at Wall Street firms, and also served as a member of the pension board for a decade. The resulting imbroglio led to the resignation under protest of Jack Meyer, head ofHarvardUniversity’s $19 billion endowment fund, and MIT Treasurer Allan Bufferd.

Governor Mitt Romney also weighed in, asserting that Cahill was treating the pension agency as a private political fiefdom and questioning Weddle’s qualifications for the position (See    Mass. Governor Balks At PRIM Executive Director Replacement Plan). With support crumbling, Weddle withdrew his candidacy in early October, and Cahill agreed to let the board run an open search for a new executive director.