John Ruffolo is out as CEO of OMERS Ventures, the venture division of one of Canada’s largest pension funds.
First reported by The Globe and Mail, the pension fund confirmed today that Ruffolo (also the Executive Managing Director, Platform Investments) had told the firm he would be leaving OMERS.
“We are appreciative of the work that he has done to bring the Ventures business to its current standing and we wish him well,” an OMERS spokesperson told BetaKit in a statement. Ruffolo has declined requests to comment.
A board member of Hootsuite, Desire2Learn, and OneEleven, Ruffolo is also the Vice-Chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators.
OMERS indicated that Ruffolo will remain in an advisory capacity with OMERS Ventures until the end of the year. Damien Steel, OMERS Ventures’ Managing Partner, will take over leadership of the VC firm, reporting into Mark Redman, OMERS’ Executive Vice President and Global Head of Private Equity. Mark Shulgan, Managing Director of Platform Investments, will now lead that group, which will also report into Redman.
Per The Globe, Steel said in an internal note to colleagues that the fund remains committed to venture capital.
“There is a natural alignment between our Platform Investing Business, including Ventures and Private Equity and bringing these groups together will benefit both businesses,” OMERS’ spokesperson said.
Joining OMERS from Deloitte in 2011 to kick off the firm’s first $200 million venture fund, Ruffolo led OMERS Ventures into some of the most notable Canadian tech investments of the last decade, including Shopify and Hootsuite (raising a $300 million third fund in May 2017, OMERS Ventures currently has over $800 million in assets under management). A board member of Hootsuite, Desire2Learn, and OneEleven, Ruffolo is also the Vice-Chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators.
Many in Canada’s VC community have reacted with shock to news of Ruffolo’s sudden departure, publicly and privately indicating to BetaKit that it comes as a complete surprise. While some have noted that private messaging out of OMERS indicates a “mutual decision,” others have pointed to the strange timing of the departure. Ruffolo had been instrumental to the recent poaching of Mike Woollatt from the CVCA to OMERS, and had been scouting potential hires in the UK over the summer (both OMERS and OneEleven had announced plans to expand to Europe in spring of this year).
Said one prominent Canadian VC to BetaKit under condition of anonymity, “who knows what politics are at play inside OMERS, but if this was in the works beforehand, then he held it very close to the vest.”