Berkeley Investing Chief Steps Down From $1.6 Billion Endowment

  • University of California fund begins search for successor
  • John-Austin Saviano established management company in 2009

The University of California, Berkeley started a search for a chief investment officer to oversee its $1.6 billion endowment after John-Austin Saviano announced his departure.

Saviano, who was hired in 2009 when Berkeley established a management company to oversee investments for its foundation, will step down in the coming weeks, Jose Rodriguez, a spokesman for the school, said Wednesday in an email.

At least a half-dozen schools have sought new leadership amid a growing turnover among university investing chiefs in the past year. The changes come as investing performance has waned, with many institutions delivering annual returns that trail their endowment spending.

New Hires

The University of Texas Investment Management Co. is looking for a new investing chief. Harvard University, Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University have hired new endowment heads in recent months.

A subcommittee of Berkeley’s management company board “will work with the staff during this period to ensure a smooth transition,” Rodriguez said.

Saviano, who previously worked at the Boston-based consultant Cambridge Associates and led a team of seven people at Berkeley, didn’t return emails seeking comment. Saviano’s departure was reported Tuesday by Institutional Investor magazine.

Separate Funds

Berkeley, UCLA and the university’s San Francisco campus have established their own investment offices that are independent of the University of California Regents endowment, which is overseen by Jagdeep Bachher. Bachher’s office managed $103 billion in endowment and pension assets as of Dec. 31.

Establishing Berkeley’s portfolio company “has been a highlight of my career,” Saviano wrote in an internal email, according to Institutional Investor. He didn’t specify his next move.

Berkeley lost 2.4 percent on investments in the year ended June 30, and had an annualized gain of 5.3 percent in the past five years, which trailed a portfolio benchmark, according to an annual report.