March 13th, 2012 | University

Harvard struggles to get rid of illiquid assets

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Photo by Creative Commons.

Harvard’s plan to reduce its $32 billion endowment’s reliance on illiquid assets hasn’t gone quite as planned.

Bloomberg reported in November that the Harvard Management Company was looking to sell roughly $1.5 billion in private equity assets. But Harvard only unloaded a portion of those holdings on the secondary market — where previously established commitments to private equity are bought and sold — because prices were not as high as the school had hoped, according to an article published last week by Dan Primack, a senior editor for Fortune.

“It seems that the $1.5 billion figure was a bit of a pipe-dream — offer lots of stuff, and see what people want to cherry-pick,” Primack wrote.

As of last fall, it appeared Yale did not have a similar plan to sell private equity holdings on the secondary market. Financial experts said selling previously established commitments can force an institution to accept poor prices and harm its relationships with fund managers.

The Yale Investments Office aims to allocate 34 percent of its endowment to private equity this fiscal year, while the Harvard Management Company’s policy portfolio includes a target allocation of 12 percent for private equity.