Harvard endowment forestry head Wiltshire to retire

The endowment's timber manager, who joined in 2001, will retire from the $36bn management company later this year.

The manager of the timberland strategy and natural resources portfolio at Harvard Management Company (HMC), Andrew Wiltshire, will retire from the $36bn university endowment later this year.

Wiltshire joined the university money manager in 2001 from GMO Renewable Resources, an investment arm of private wealth manager, as managing director of Natural Resources and director of Timberland Investments. Before then he worked for Rayonier in his native New Zealand. He is currently head of alternative assets at the group. His forthcoming retirement follows the departure of former president and chief executive Jane Mendillo at the end of last year, and the promotion of Stephen Blyth to the top job.

“Andy was a pioneer in developing HMC’s timberland strategy and innovative natural resources portfolio, and was a vital member of the HMC management team that helped Jane Mendillo lead the organisation through the financial crisis and its aftermath,” Blyth said in a statement. He added that Wiltshire was an important part of his “transition team”. HMC has yet to unveil a successor in the post.

Wiltshire helped oversee HMC’s large natural resources investment programme, which included forestry plantations in Romania, Brazil and Argentina. The natural resources division delivered a 9 percent return in the year to end-June 2014, beating its 7.5 percent benchmark, but underperforming its longer-term result of 11.6 percentage for 10 years – 4.5 percentage points over its benchmark. While beating long-term targets, HMC’s forestry investments have run into other difficulties. The endowment sold over 30,000 acres of Romanian forest earlier this year to Swedish furniture maker Ikea after an agent it hired in the eastern European country was convicted of bribery and money laundering in 2014. The contractor was accused of colluding with timber companies to inflate prices, but had denied any wrongdoing.

HMC cut the proportion of natural resources in its so-called Policy Portfolio – its theoretical ideal asset class allocation – to 11 percent for 2015 from 13 percent in 2014, effectively reducing its perfect natural resources portfolio by over $700m to just over $4bn.