Cornell Taps Edwards To Lead Endowment

Endowment: Cornell University

Assets Managed: $5.4 Billion (June 30, 2011)

Private Equity Assets: $1.1 Billion

Private Equity Allocation: 19.5%

Chief Investment Officer: A.J. Edwards

Cornell University’s endowment has appointed a new chief investment officer, naming A.J. Edwards to the role, according to a source with direct knowledge of the appointment. Edwards has been interim chief investment officer for Cornell’s Office of University Investments since May 1, 2011, when the previous chief investment officer, Michael Abbott, unexpectedly stepped down.

Despite several requests to reach Edwards and get an official statement from the university, neither was made available.

Abbott, Edwards’s predecessor, stepped down as chief investment officer just six months after assuming the role in late 2010. At the time of his departure, the university issued a statement saying: “It had become apparent that his style of conducting business is inconsistent with Cornell’s policies and expectations.”

Cornell declined to elaborate on the reasons for Abbott’s exit, saying it does not discuss personnel matters.

Edwards, who was elevated to the role of interim chief investment officer following Abbott’s resignation, had previously been, since March 2008, a senior investment officer at the endowment.

Cornell’s endowment, with $5.4 billion in assets, was the fifth-best performing endowment among the Ivy League’s eight universities during fiscal 2011, posting a 19.9 percent return in the year that ended on June 30, 2011.

Cornell had 19.5 percent of its assets invested in private equity as of June 30, 2011, or about $1.1 billion. Returns for the endowment’s private equity program were strong in 2011, posting gains of 27.8 percent.

The four best-performing endowments in the Ivy League over that time period also happened to be the largest. The Ivy League’s top performer was Columbia University, with a 23.6 percent gain. Yale University and Princeton University were tied for having the second-best endowment performance, with 21.9 percent returns, and Harvard University, which has the nation’s largest endowment with $32 billion in assets, returned 21.4 percent in the year ending June 30, 2011.