May 1, 2011

Chief Investment Officer Abruptly Steps Down

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Michael Abbott, Cornell’s chief investment officer, stepped down on Sunday, according to Vice President for University Communications Tommy Bruce.The reason for Abbott’s departure remains unclear.“It has become apparent that his style of conducting business is inconsistent with Cornell’s policies and expectations,” Bruce said via email. “The parties concluded that it would be in everyone’s interest to end the relationship.”Bruce declined to elaborate on why Abbott is departing. “The University will not comment on matters regarding personnel,” he said.The chief investment officer is responsible for running the Office of University Investments, which manages Cornell’s $5.2 billion endowment.More than a dozen staff members at the Office of University Investments either could not be reached for comment or declined to discuss the matter on Sunday. Several members of the Board of Trustee’s Investment Committee also could not be reached Sunday.

The University’s endowment has risen this fiscal year, and a Cornell Chronicle article from earlier this month stated that “Cornell’s investments are rebounding impressively,” citing information provided by Abbott.“I think we could do better, but we’re reasonably comfortable with where we are today,” Abbott said, according to the Chronicle.Abbott’s departure will not affect the performance of Cornell’s endowment or other investments, “which are exceeding expectations,” Bruce said.Staff members in the investment office are working with the Board of Trustee’s Investment Committee to ensure a smooth transition between chief investment officers, Bruce said. Senior Investment Officer A.J. Edwards will take over Abbott’s responsibilities until the University names a replacement.Abbott was named chief investment officer on Nov. 1 after James Walsh resigned from the position in June. Walsh had held the job for about three and a half years. Abbott was previously chief executive officer of Robeco-Sage, a New York-based fund of hedge funds.“Michael’s experience as CEO of a fund whose clientele included educational institutions makes him particularly qualified to understand Cornell’s investment needs and concerns,” President David Skorton said when Abbott was chosen in November.

Original Author: Michael Linhorst