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Staff Exodus From Emory’s $7 Billion Endowment

Nearly half of the investment team has left in the last year.

Emory University had a staff of 23 overseeing its $7 billion endowment last August, its archived website shows. Now, the office employs about 14.

Investment professionals account for nearly all of the departures. Several have landed high-profile positions at other institutions, including former managing director Muthu Muthiah. He spent only a short time at Emory before a brand-new $1.9 billion Seattle foundation hired him as its founding chief investment officer.

Muthiah is one of four managing directors to part ways with Emory in the last year, according to a 2018 team webpage and the current version. Others include Mary Cernilli, who oversaw fixed income and absolute return; venture capital specialist Julie Vollenweider; and Lu Yan, the former managing director of asset allocation and investment risk.

The most recent staffer to take flight is Joe Greiner, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. Emory’s website still lists him as an employee. Greiner spent seven years at the endowment working on private market investments, which make up a substantial portion of the fund.

The wave of departures occurred during the first year of new CIO Srinivas Pulavarti’s tenure. He took over the fund on July 1, 2018, after leading the $2.3 billion UCLA Foundation.

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Despite Emory’s once-substantial team and generously compensated top brass, the Atlanta fund has underperformed most of its peers. Emory’s 7.7 percent annualized return put it at the bottom of the third quartile among U.S. nonprofit funds for the five years ending June 30, 2018, a private database shows.

Other recent staff exits include public equity director Arvind Rangaraj, private equity director Zack McGuire, fixed income and absolute-return manager Matthew Poland, and risk director Mike Negussie. Administrator Dawn Wilson joined the investment office in June 2017, the archived website said, but her profile has since been removed from the team page.

It’s unclear whether shrinking the team’s headcount is part of CIO Pulavarti’s strategy, or if he plans to replace the 10 or so employees who’ve left.

Emory spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon.

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