Harvard Endowment Loses Ciaschini as Departures Increase

Matt Ciaschini, who oversaw $700 million of natural resource investments at Harvard University’s endowment, has resigned, bringing departures at the money manager to at least four in the past two months.

Ciaschini, a vice president at Harvard Management Co., left last month for personal reasons to join Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential Financial Inc.’s agricultural investments group, he said today by phone. Harvard reassigned his responsibilities and doesn’t plan to replace him, said Christine Heenan, a spokeswoman for the university.

Jane Mendillo, the endowment’s chief executive officer who took over amid unprecedented losses during the 2008 financial crisis, said last week she will leave at the end of this year, citing personal reasons. Harvard, the world’s wealthiest school with a $32.7 billion endowment, posted a gain of 11.3 percent last fiscal year and an annual average return of 1.7 percent over five years, both the lowest in the Ivy League, according to data compiled by Charles Skorina & Co.

Glenn Hutchins, a member of the endowment’s board, said last week that performance was not a factor in Mendillo’s decision to depart and that she has beaten internal benchmarks during her tenure.

Ciaschini oversaw a portfolio of agricultural investments at Harvard. Prudential last month hired him in a new role as chief investment officer for agricultural equity at the company’s mortgage capital unit. He is based in San Francisco.

Joining BlackRock

Apoorva K. Koticha, 48, among the highest-paid traders at Harvard Management in 2011, also recently left, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mark McKenna, 43, a money manager at the endowment, moved to BlackRock Inc. this month to start an event-driven hedge fund. Since April 2013, Harvard Management has also parted ways with two heads of its private-equity unit.

Mendillo sought to reposition Harvard’s portfolio by restructuring private equity holdings and searching for new opportunities to make direct investments in real estate and agriculture in emerging markets such as Brazil. The endowment’s natural resources portfolio had a return of 5.1 percent last year, below a benchmark of 7.6 percent, and 12.2 percent over a decade, beating the benchmark of 7 percent, Harvard said in its annual report.

Mendillo worked her way up the ranks of the company over 15 years before leaving to run Wellesley College’s endowment for six years in 2002. She returned in 2008 as the university grappled with the fallout from the global financial crisis, posting a record 27 percent investment loss in 2009.

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