Harvard's fund managers go as endowment shrinks

February 19, 2009

As the global economic crisis continues apace, Harvard University has announced that it will axe one in four staff from the company that manages its endowment fund.

About 50 jobs in total are set to go as the world's richest university reacts to the declining fortunes of its endowment, which has fallen in value by $8.2 billion (£5.8 billion) in just four months.

The 22 per cent decline has seen its value plummet from $36.9 billion at the end of June 2008 to $28.7 billion in October. By the end of the financial year, forecasts say the endowment's value will have fallen by about 30 per cent in total, the newspaper USA Today said.

Harvard is not the only US institution suffering dramatic losses because of the crisis. Brandeis University in Massachusetts has been forced to sell the family silver by closing its museum of modern art and selling the contents, including works by Andy Warhol.

In a statement, Harvard said that executives at the Harvard Management Company, which oversees the endowment fund, had decided to overhaul the firm's structures.

The changes were needed, it said, to "maintain its position as a world-class investment organisation".

Harvard, in line with several other elite universities in the US, has committed large sums of money to offer much-improved financial-aid packages to students from this autumn.

However, the commitment was made before the extent of the economic crisis became clear. Recent manoeuvring has indicated that despite its wealth, Harvard is not immune from the effects of the credit crunch.

In December, staff were warned that the institution would have to take a "hard look" at staffing levels and pay.

Even so, the remuneration enjoyed by senior staff at the Harvard Management Company will seem eye-watering to many UK university staff.

Last year, its five highest-paid staff earned between $3.9 million and $6.4 million each, USA Today said. In 2003, two senior executives received pay packets of $34 million each.

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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