Venture Capital, Internet Economy Send Endowment Soaring

Shrewd investing, the Internet economy and a strong commodities market combined to create the record $4.8 billion surge in Harvard's accounts that the University announced on Friday.

The 32.2 percent increase made for the "best year ever" for Harvard's finances, according to Jack R. Meyer, the University's top money manager and was especially stunning because it far outpaced the 7.3 percent rise of the benchmark Standards & Poor 500 index.

Harvard administrators have yet to decide what percentage of the $19.2 billion endowment they will spend this year--it's typically 5 percent--but, regardless, Harvard is much richer than ever before.


The most dramatic gains this year came in private equities. The value of Harvard's holdings in this category increased by 155 percent, riding on a 413 percent explosion in its venture capital investments--most of which are in technology and Internet companies.

The increase exceeded by more than 100 percent the gains made by the index the University selects as a benchmark for its performance.

Meyer said venture capital constitutes more than half of the private equities category, which makes up 15 percent of the University's holdings, but would not give a precise figure.

The 185 employees at the Harvard Management Company (HMC) manage about 65 percent of Harvard's money directly. The rest, including all of the venture capital money, is managed by outside firms.

Harvard works with about 40 venture capital firms across the nation, but a great deal of this year's gains come from only a handful, financial officials say.

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