Penn’s Long-Time Endowment Chief Steps Down

Endowment: University of Pennsylvania

Assets Managed: $6.8 Billion (June 30, 2012)

Private Equity Assets: $541 Million (June 30, 2011)

Private Equity Allocation (Target): 8.2% (8.2%) (June 30, 2011)

Chief Investment Officer (Interim): David Harkins

Performance at the endowment “has improved steadily under her leadership,” said Craig Carnaroli, Penn’s executive vice president, in a memo to university officials. He went on to praise Gilbertson for “her stewardship of the portfolio during the 2008 financial crisis during which Penn outperformed other endowment peers and avoided liquidity issues.”

Buyouts was unable to reach Gilbertson or the university about her reasons for stepping down.

Penn announced in September that its endowment had returned 1.6 percent during fiscal 2012, which ended on June 30. That trailed the S&P 500, which had a 5.5 percent gain over the same period.

Among Ivy League schools that have so far announced their endowment results, Penn’s returns were above Harvard University’s 0.05 percent loss and Brown University’s 1 percent gain in fiscal 2012. But Penn’s returns fell below Yale University’s gain of 4.7 percent return and Columbia University’s 2.3 percent gain. Dartmouth College produced the best Ivy League return with a 5.8 percent gain. Princeton University and Cornell University have yet to post their results.

At 8.2 percent, Penn’s allocation to private equity and venture capital is smaller than its Ivy League peers, such as Harvard, which has a 12 percent allocation and Yale, which allocates 35 percent of its endowment to private equity and venture capital.

Over the last decade, Penn’s endowment has had an average annual return of 7 percent, which is well below Yale’s, which has returned 10.6 percent on average per year over the last decade, and Harvard’s, which has returned 9.5 percent.

Until a new CIO is appointed, David Harkins, who heads up the public equities investment team, has been appointed interim CIO. To help with the transition, Gilbertson plans to stay on as a special adviser through the end of the year.

Prior to joining Penn’s endowment, Gilbertson had headed up public equities for Stanford University’s endowment.