Michael Sabia leaving Caisse to head University of Toronto’s Munk School

Michael Sabia leaving Caisse to head University of Toronto’s Munk School

MONTREAL — The chief executive of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec is stepping down from the pension fund manager to become head of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

The Quebec fund manager says Michael Sabia, 66, is leaving at the beginning of February, a little more than a year earlier than expected.

“I know that I am leaving the Caisse and its people in a strong position to seize the many opportunities that lie ahead for them as I move on to my next challenge,” Sabia said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sabia, who was not available for interviews, noted that leading the unique Quebec institution has been “the greatest privilege” of his career.

He has served as president and chief executive at the Caisse since March 2009. Before joining the investment fund, he was chief executive of BCE Inc.

In February 2017, his mandate was renewed until March 31, 2021, to allow Sabia to oversee the completion of the Montreal electric railway project.

Caisse chairman Robert Tessier said it has retained the services of an international firm to search for Sabia’s replacement and planned to complete the process at the beginning of 2020, with the appointment of a successor approved by the government.

Potential candidates have probably already been identified, said Michel Nadeau, a former senior Caisse executive and director general of the Institute on Governance of Private and Public Organizations.

“If Mr. Sabia leaves in February, it’s because they already have people in mind,” he said in an interview. “They feel that the government would prefer to have another person.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault praised Sabia’s work, calling him an “excellent manager,” “hard working” and a “brilliant man.”

Finance Minister Eric Girard denied that the government wanted to place its own candidate at the Caisse.

“My approach was to tell him that I would have liked him to stay longer,” he said in Quebec City. “If he had wanted to stay longer, he could have stayed longer.”

Girard, who said the Caisse could be headed by a woman, felt Sabia’s replacement would have to ensure its portfolios are resilient through a period that will eventually include bear markets.

Sabia’s appointment was criticized a decade ago because he was not from Quebec.

But he made a name for the Caisse with a focus on reducing the volatility of returns, said governance expert and Concordia University professor Michel Magnan.

“He was hired to restore confidence in the institution. On that, I think we cannot argue.”

Sabia was appointed to head the Caisse after it was shaken by the financial crisis, which resulted in $40 billion of losses the previous year.

Under his guidance, the Caisse said it has produced “solid and sustainable returns” of 9.9 per cent over 10 years, while the size of its net assets has almost tripled to $326.7 billion at June 30.

Over the last decade, the institution has diversified, focusing particularly on sectors such as infrastructure and private equity, while continuing to invest in real estate and adjusting its strategy.

“He confounded skeptics, me being the first,” said Nadeau, who believes Sabia’s mandate can be viewed in two periods.

Nadeau said Sabia spent the first years reducing the portfolio’s risk and then relaunching an international expansion with 10 offices abroad. He also put more emphasis on investments in Quebec.

Sabia’s total compensation last year was $3.87 million, up 11.5 per cent from 2017. His salary has remained steady at $500,000. He will not receive severance.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
Gov’t reports two more COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer on Sunday

Nineteen new deaths, including two in Red Deer, were reported by the… Continue reading

Andre Lemus, the owner of Las Palmeras in Red Deer, says he hopes in-person dining restrictions are lifted this upcoming Thursday. (Photo courtesy www.laspalmeras.ca)
Red Deer restaurant owner hopes in-person dining restrictions are lifted Thursday

The owner of a Red Deer restaurant says business has “dropped” since… Continue reading

The Town of Ponoka and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) have ratified a new agreement, averting a strike. (File photo from Facebook)
Alberta gov’t ‘using pandemic as shield to lay off workers,’ says AUPE

The Government of Alberta’s “attacks on workers” is continuing with a new… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP, EMS, Search and Rescue, STARS air ambulance and Alstrom Helicopters worked together to rescue a fallen ice climber Friday. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP help rescue fallen ice climber

Rocky Mountain RCMP helped assist a fallen ice climber Friday afternoon. At… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

A cat named Willow is shown in this recent handout photo. Victoria firefighter Capt. Tim Hanley says using a jackhammer and other home repair tools to save a cat stuck in a tiny basement drainpipe ranks as the strangest rescue call he's been on in his 20-year career. Hanley says he and three other firefighters spent more than two hours using sledgehammers and a jackhammer to break through Victoria homeowner Emma Hutchinson's concrete basement floor to free Willow, a nine-month-old kitten. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Twitter, City of Victoria
Victoria firefighters use homeowners’ jackhammer to rescue cat trapped in tiny pipe

VICTORIA — A Victoria firefighter says using a jackhammer and other home… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party: O’Toole

OTTAWA — Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says there is “no place… Continue reading

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

First Nations, ranchers, municipal officials and environmentalists hope to persuade a judge… Continue reading

Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle arrives at Nova Scotia provincial court for a sentencing hearing in Halifax on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canada’s spy-catching system caused delay, angst in Delisle case: former FBI official

OTTAWA — The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s former head of counter-intelligence… Continue reading

People wait to be screened before entering Little Mountain Place, a long-term care home that has had 41 residents die since a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the facility in November in Vancouver on Sunday, January 3, 2021. Staff in long-term care homes across Canada are struggling to isolate elderly residents with dementia during COVID-19 outbreaks, accelerating the deadly spread of the virus, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Care home staff struggle to isolate dementia patients during outbreaks: experts

VANCOUVER — Staff in long-term care homes across Canada are struggling to… Continue reading

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what's fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) just misses the net against goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during  scrimmage at their NHL training camp practice in Winnipeg, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Jets return to practice a day after suspending workouts due to COVID concerns

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have returned to practice a day after… Continue reading

Most Read