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Columbia University Endowment Posts 0.9% Loss as CEO Departs

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Columbia University’s endowment reported a 0.9 percent loss for the year, underscoring the departing chief executive officer’s ability to pare losses in turbulent markets.

The value of the fund declined 6.2 percent to $9 billion for the year through June 30, the New York-based school said Wednesday in a statement. Columbia posted the smallest loss among six Ivy League schools. Of the other two Ivies, Yale University had a 3.4 percent gain and Princeton University hasn’t reported yet.

Many schools have struggled with volatile markets. About 430 endowments lost 2.7 percent on average in fiscal 2016, according to an estimate by Cambridge Associates, which manages $9.9 billion for endowments and foundations. The Cambridge data, like the school returns, is net of fees.

It’s the last fiscal year the endowment will be headed by Narv Narvekar, who has been at the helm since 2002. Narvekar will join Harvard Management Co. as CEO on Dec. 5 to help turn around the struggling $35.7 billion fund, the richest university endowment.  Peter Holland, Columbia’s chief investment officer since 2003, succeeds Narvekar.

At the depth of the financial crisis in fiscal 2009, Columbia withstood the turmoil better than its rivals. Harvard’s fund fell 27.3 percent, the worst among the Ivy schools. Yale University declined 24.6 percent. Columbia dropped 16.1 percent.

Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger said in a statement that the “university has been well positioned to withstand economic downturns over this turbulent period.”

The fund’s five-year and 10-year annualized returns are 7.4 percent and 8.1 percent. Columbia in the statement didn’t disclose investment strategies or performance by asset class for fiscal 2016.

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