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Mark Machin, former chief executive officer of CPPIB, has re-emerged as co-founder of new investment company Opto Investments.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

Mark Machin, who departed the CEO job at Canada Pension Plan Investment Board after his controversial decision to travel internationally to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, has emerged as CEO of a new investment company.

Mr. Machin has co-founded New York-based Opto Investments Inc., a company that plans to help registered investment advisers, or RIAs, in the United States access the kind of private-market and alternative assets that make up a huge chunk of CPPIB’s portfolio.

Opto Investments’ co-founders include Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, who will serve as the company’s chair, and Jacob Miller, formerly of Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates.

CPPIB forced Mr. Machin to resign as chief executive in February, 2021, after he travelled to the United Arab Emirates and received a COVID-19 vaccination before they were widely available in Canada and while the Canadian government was advising against unnecessary travel. Mr. Machin had permission for the trip, 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 had told CPPIB’s board in the fall of 2020 that he planned to leave in 2021 after five years at the helm. The vaccine imbroglio accelerated the timeline.

CPPIB said later in 2021 that Mr. Machin, who stayed on as an adviser until mid-August, received no severance package and had his departure treated as a retirement. He received $3.98-million in his final year, consisting of $625,000 in salary, an annual bonus that topped $1-million, and other long-term and pension compensation.

CPPIB said as long as he adheres to non-compete arrangements, his deferred compensation, tied to the performance of the CPPIB fund, will continue to accrue until his awards mature, some as late as 2026. CPPIB declined to comment Tuesday on whether the Opto venture would be considered competitive to CPPIB. Mr. Machin was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Mr. Machin is also a member of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.’s international advisory board, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and an adviser to its portfolio strategies committee.

Over CPPIB’s 2 ½ decades, it has transitioned from a passive investor to an active owner of a wide range of assets not easily accessible to ordinary Canadians. At June 30, its private equity and real assets investment departments had $259-billion, nearly half of the $523-billion portfolio. Real assets include infrastructure, real estate and renewable energy.

Opto said Tuesday it received US$145-million in financing from Tiger Global and other funders including Mr. Lonsdale’s 8VC and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital.

The company has premised its business plan on the idea that the vast majority of individual investors have little access to private investments, with the average wealth adviser putting just 0 per cent to 4 per cent of the 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 manages the process from start to finish: from sourcing, diligence and subscribing to funds; to monitoring positions, capital call schedules, investor servicing and reporting.

The company has 45 employees and says it has already partnered with more than 80 RIAs.

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