Ending Long Chapter, Harvard Spins Out Natural Resources Team

Ending Long Chapter, Harvard Spins Out Natural Resources Team

Harvard University’s endowment has spun out its natural resources team into a new, independent investment firm called Solum Partners, marking  the exit of the last group inside the school charged with running an “entire asset class directly without outside fund managers.” This according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

Harvard Management Co. and insurer AIG are expected to contribute approximately $200 million each to Solum and will invest in “a portfolio of assets the firm is buying from Harvard that includes fruit orchards, soybean plantations and stakes in companies that distribute avocados and make olive oil,” the article reports.

The spinout reduces the $41.9 billion endowment’s controversial natural-resources portfolio and completes endowment chief N.P. “Narv” Narvekar’s efforts to revamp the largest U.S. endowment by “dismantling the teams of in-house investors that were a Harvard endowment hallmark for years.”

Solum is led by Colin Butterfield, a 47-year-old native of Brazil who previously managed Brazilian farmland for an investment venture of TIAA-CREF and Cosan S.A. According to the article, Solum is hoping to raise under $1 billion for “further bets on the agriculture and food-production industry” and will advise Harvard’s endowment on managing and selling its remaining natural-resource assets.

For AIG, the investment comes as “insurers and other large investors have been hunting for alternatives for stocks and bonds to get higher returns at a time of low interest rates.”