It’s funny what people will ask you for when you have money. Recently, a Canadian municipality approached the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) with a proposal to go in together on a new sidewalk. Mark Wiseman, chief executive officer of the Toronto-based CPPIB, declined. The only sidewalk that would interest Wiseman would be one linking Halifax to Vancouver. “We need scale,” he says. “We are looking to deploy $500 million to $1 billion minimum per project.”
The table of journalists assembled around Wiseman at a hotel in India’s financial capital of Mumbai this week sniggered. How naive of those poor townsfolk to think a fund with assets of more than $268 billion might be interested in paving walking paths. But surely it was worth a try—Wiseman has grown progressively bolder over his three years as the person responsible for multiplying the value of Canadians’ mandatory pension contributions. Long gone are the days when that money would be invested primarily in ultra-secure government bonds. Earlier this year, Wiseman spent the equivalent of about $287 million to buy 18 per cent of a company that owns the distribution rights of thousands of movies and television shows, including The Walking Dead and the Twilight films. If it’s ok to bet the nation’s nest egg on the lasting popularity of zombies and vampires, then why not sidewalks, too?
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