Endowments, foundations feeling surer about PE

Unlike last year, when many endowments and foundations were on the sidelines, a few say they’ll make pledges this year to the asset class.

To be fair, the numbers aren’t big. Three investors, Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust, Ball State Foundation and Bryn Mawr College, collectively could make about $50 million in pledges this year.

The $4 billion Alfred I. duPont, the investment vehicle that funds The Nemours Foundation, intends to commit roughly $35 million to private equity in 2010, said Director of Private Equity Michael Beblo.

The LP, whose target allocation to the asset class is 12%, typically commits to about eight to 10 funds each year, with commitment sizes ranging from $3 million to $10 million. The trust has made pledges to more than 100 private equity funds since 2000 and has supported Flybridge Capital Partners, Golub Capital Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and The Riverside Co., among others.

The $150 million Ball State Foundation will likely pledge $4 million to $5 million this year to a couple of commitments, including buyout, venture, mezzanine, distressed and secondary funds, or a fund of funds that combines some of these strategies, said CIO Tom Heck.

Although the $850 million Bryn Mawr College has reached its 8% target to private equity, CFO and Treasurer John Griffith still intends to commit $10 million to distressed-for-control and small and mid-cap buyout funds this year, he said. The college has supported Commonfund Capital, a funds-of-funds manager.

Meanwhile, Lehigh University CIO Peter Gilbert said that the school invests in private equity on an opportunistic basis.

“We want to make a few select investments to the best funds,” Gilbert said. “If we cannot find them or access them, we will not make any investments.”

For 2010, the LP may invest from zero to about $40 million, he said.

Purdue University currently has made enough commitments over the past five years to reach its policy target. To maintain the exposure, “additional commitments will need to be made if and when distributions pick up,” said Scott Seidle, senior director of investments. He added that the $1.7 billion LP is still in the planning process for 2010 and is not looking to “fill” a specific amount. —Nancy Gordon