Sudden Split Of Stanford CIO Raises Questions

With the unexpected exit of Ken Frier, Stanford Management Company’s chief investment officer, after less than a year in the job, the university has not yet revealed how the departure would affect the management of the school’s $13.8 billion endowment, the nation’s fourth largest, and its private equity program.

About 12 percent of Stanford’s endowment is allocated to private equity and venture capital, a portion that would amount to about $1.7 billion. According to Dow Jones, the venture-heavy endowment has investments with Greylock Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Oak Investment Partners. Its private equity holdings include investments with Oak Hill Capital Partners and China’s Hony Capital.

A Stanford spokeswoman, Lisa Lapin, said the endowment was “back to the status quo,” and that the chief executive of Stanford Management Company, John Powers, would remain in “day-to-day operational control.” She said she was unable to say whether Stanford planned to replace Frier or whether it planned to install an interim investment chief.

Frier came to Stanford in August 2010 and was the first to occupy the chief investment officer role since Eric Upin left in 2008 to join Sequoia Capital, the venture capital firm. Prior to becoming Stanford’s CIO, Frier had been at Hewlett-Packard for a decade, where he was lauded for helping steer the company’s pension assets out of equities in 2007, just prior to the market’s tailspin.

The chief executive of the Stanford Management Company, John Powers, did not return phone calls seeking to find out why Frier departed. Frier also could not be reached.

Frier was a graduate of Stanford Business School, and said in his hiring announcement last year that he was “thrilled to be returning to Stanford and eager to make a contribution to the success of the endowment.”