A man walks past packed cotton during Agrishow, the largest fair of agricultural machinery business in Latin America, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil April 27, 2015.

Harvard lost $1.1 billion in 2017 thanks to bad bets on tomatoes, sugar, and eucalyptus

$1.1 billion

Money managers at Harvard were paid $242 million from 2010 to 2014 to plan investments, but lost $1.1 billion on energy and agricultural holdings, including a series of ill-fated Brazilian crops.

Published   |  Photo by Reuters/Paulo Whitaker
A man walks past packed cotton during Agrishow, the largest fair of agricultural machinery business in Latin America, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil April 27, 2015.
$1.1 billion

Agricultural products like tomato paste, sugar caused large losses in the Harvard endowment’s $4 billion natural-resources portfolio last year.

A man walks past packed cotton during Agrishow, the largest fair of agricultural machinery business in Latin America, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil April 27, 2015.
$1.1 billion

Bloomberg says those losses dragged Harvard’s 10-year average annual returns on endowments under the 4.4% average 809 US universities endowments—and far behind peers like MIT, Yale, and Princeton.

A man walks past packed cotton during Agrishow, the largest fair of agricultural machinery business in Latin America, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil April 27, 2015.
$1.1 billion

Several managers behind those investments—some paid tens of millions of dollars—have stepped down as Harvard is forced to sell off its unprofitable assets.

A man walks past packed cotton during Agrishow, the largest fair of agricultural machinery business in Latin America, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil April 27, 2015.
$1.1 billion

“They became loose cannons,” University of Washington finance manager Thomas Gilbert told Bloomberg. “When you’re managing donor money, it’s appalling.”

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