Legendary Yale Investor Dean Takahashi to Leave Role at Endowment

CIO David Swensen’s longtime second-in-command is exiting his post, an email shows.

Harkness Tower on the Yale University campus. (Craig Warga/Bloomberg)

Harkness Tower on the Yale University campus.

(Craig Warga/Bloomberg)

Dean Takahashi — the second-most powerful figure at the groundbreaking Yale Investment Office — is stepping aside, according to an email reviewed by Institutional Investor.

University officials sent the email Thursday to members of its extended investment circle informing them of Takahashi’s move.

“After more than 33 years of extraordinary service to Yale’s endowment, Dean Takahashi has decided to devote the final chapter of his career at Yale to developing solutions that address the existential threat of climate change,” the note stated. It praised the senior director’s “inestimable contribution to Yale’s strength and vitality.”

Senior staff members say that Takahashi will no longer be involved in active investment decision making, according to someone familiar with these discussions.

“With the Endowment portfolio in excellent shape and the investment team top notch and ready, I feel compelled to do all I can to combat climate change,” Takahashi said in a Saturday statement to II. “I am sad to leave our extraordinarily capable and committed team in the Investments Office and our exceptionally talented investment partners and Committee members. I have been honored to work with such wonderful people. Most of all, I will miss my close working relationship with David Swensen.”


Takahashi joined the now-$29 billion endowment operation in 1986, just a year after chief investment officer David Swensen took over. He rose to become its sole senior director and effective deputy to the CIO.

Many consider Swensen and Yale to be the greatest CIO and institutional fund in history. Its success has changed the face of nonprofit investing, particularly in the United States. Investors who trained under Swensen and Takahashi now lead the funds of Princeton University, MIT, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, Bowdoin College, and the Packard Foundation, among others.

[II Deep Dive: David Swensen Is Great for Yale. Is He Horrible for Investing?]

Takahashi’s departure creates a vacuum at the endowment office. But there are “no plans at this time” to directly fill his position, Swensen said in a statement. “Yale’s endowment will be well served by the depth and experience of the existing leadership team.”

There are nine directors below the exiting deputy, according to the organization’s website. With the CIO in his mid-60s, elevating a potential successor or successors eventually may align with the organization’s history of smooth leadership.

It appears that Takahashi will not be that successor, however.

He lauded Swensen’s “extraordinary leadership” in a 2015 campus lecture, where he spoke on the investment office’s values. “When we recruit, we look for people who care about Yale and who care about investing, who care about more than just making money.”

Note: this article has been update with statements from Takahashi and Swensen.