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Stanford Endowment on the Lookout for New CIO

The third largest endowment among US colleges is searching for a CIO after leaving the post vacant for more than two years.

(April 2, 2010) – Stanford University’s endowment is looking to appoint a new chief investment officer.

The post has been vacant for more than two years as investments dropped a record 26% for the year ended June 30 amid volatile markets. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based university began its search in October with David Barrett Partners, a New York-based recruiting company.

Stanford’s $12.6 billion endowment, the third-richest among US colleges, is considering candidates at endowments, pension funds and money managers, and the university will likely announce its choice by midyear.

The Stanford position has been open since February 2008, after Eric Upin left to join venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital. Upin later shifted to former Stanford colleagues at Makena Capital Management, a fund-of-funds firm.

Cynthia Steer, chief research strategist at Rogerscasey, a consulting company in Darien, Connecticut, believes the job of endowment CIO is going to be more demanding. “Investment officers will be increasingly called on to do workouts and restructuring in private equity, real estate and all their alternative assets,” Steer said to Bloomberg. “Boards are going to be increasingly looking for people with diverse backgrounds, fairly deep knowledge of both the alternative asset classes as well as some background with the more traditional skill sets of budgeting and liquidity.”

Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, Connecticut, is in a similar position, looking to fill its vacant CIO position. Thomas Kannam was fired from the university in October and sued a month after by the university for fraud and breach of contract.

Other universities looking to fill vacant CIO seats include Ithaca’s Cornell University, whose former CIO James Walsh announced in February that he would step down at the end of the academic year. University of Florida’s CIO Michael Smith left the university at the end of March to join Global Endowment Management as a partner, and Christopher Brightman resigned last month from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.