Duke University Says Endowment Returns 13%, Beating Harvard

Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Duke University said its investments rose 13 percent in the past year, beating gains of Harvard University, the world’s richest school, and matching returns of a broad group of institutions.

The endowment is still $1.2 billion short of what it was two years ago, said Richard Brodhead, the Durham, North Carolina, school’s president, in an e-mail to staff today, without disclosing current the value of the fund. The endowment managed $6.1 billion as of June 30, 2008, according to its website. It was valued at $4.4 billion a year ago.

Duke cut 400 workers in the past year through early retirement packages, by controlling overtime and not filling vacant positions, Brodhead said. Freezing salaries helped save more than 100 jobs, he said. That contributed to a reduction in the budget deficit of more than $60 million.

In 2009, the university said it needed to cut its annual budget of $2 billion by about $100 million over three years, to make up for endowment losses. The school still needs to cut an additional $40 million over the next two years, Brodhead said today.

Gift-giving over the past year increased 15 percent to $345 million from last year’s low, said Brodhead.

Michael Schoenfeld, a spokesman for the university, didn’t return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said Sept. 9 its investments rose 11 percent in the past year, beating its own benchmark while trailing the returns of a broad group of institutions. The university’s endowment climbed $1.4 billion to $27.4 billion as of June 30. Institutions tracked by Wilshire Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Santa Monica, California, had a 13 percent median gain over the same period.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gillian Wee in New York at gwee3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Baumgaertel at cbaumgaertel@bloomberg.net.