Return to search

Harvard University endowment chief Stephen Blyth resigns: Reuters

Stephen Blyth, who was appointed to oversee Harvard University‘s endowment only 18 months ago, has resigned, the Ivy League school said on Wednesday, creating further uncertainty about the management of its $37.6 billion pool of funds.

Blyth, who took a temporary medical leave in May, is departing for personal reasons, the school said.

Harvard, the richest U.S. university, has gone through several chief investment officers over the last decade and the endowment’s once strong returns have ebbed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Robert Ettl, chief operating officer at Harvard Management Co (HMC), will continue to run the university’s investment arm on an interim basis.

Blyth, 48, was tapped as investment chief in late 2014 as it become more apparent that the Harvard’s investment returns, once the envy of the endowment world, were lagging rivals including Yale University, where David Swensen has overseen investments for more than three decades.

Harvard traditionally invested much of its money using in-house teams while many other schools, including Yale, use outside managers.

Blyth succeeded Jane Mendillo as chief executive officer at HMC in January 2015 and set out to overhaul performance.
Only last month, Harvard said that it will rely more on outside money managers. Earlier in the year Blyth cut a number of jobs on the public equities team. Several top executives, including Michael Ryan, who headed public markets and absolute return strategies, have left.

After having earned his PhD in statistics from Harvard, Blyth worked on Wall Street before arriving at HMC in 2006.
He will now serve as a senior advisor to the HMC Board and spend more time teaching, the school said.

Blyth’s first months as investment chief were not seen as altogether successful, industry analysts have said, noting Harvard’s endowment returned 5.8 percent during the fiscal year ended on June 30 2015, while Yale gained 11.5 percent.

Blyth could not immediately be reached for comment.

Harvard hired David Barrett Partners to find the next investment chief.

For the 380-year old school, which has educated U.S. presidents, world leaders and Wall Street financiers, it has been a rocky decade at the endowment. Jack Meyer, who more than quadrupled its size in 15 years as investment chief, quit in 2005 to run a hedge fund.

He was succeeded by former PIMCO executive Mohamed El-Erian, who left after less than two years. Mendillo arrived just as the financial crisis began.

Photo: istock.com/Patrick Morrissey