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Yale Names David Swensen’s Successor

Matt Mendelsohn, who led Yale’s venture capital portfolio, will take the helm as CIO on September 1.

Yale Investments Office has selected Matthew Mendelsohn as its next chief investment officer.  

Mendelsohn is a director at Yale, covering its venture capital investments, which comprise more than 25 percent of Yale’s total endowment, according to the university’s Tuesday announcement of the appointment.

Mendelsohn succeeds David Swensen, who died on May 6 after battling cancer. Swensen was a legendary investor, pioneering the endowment model, which involves funneling a significant amount of an institution’s capital into alternative assets.  

Over the last few months, the institutional investing industry has been waiting to see who Yale would name as his successor.  

“The committee left no stone unturned in the search,” former Yale provost Ben Polak, chair of the seven-member hiring committee, said in a statement. “In the end, the right answer was immediately before us. Matt Mendelsohn has the respect of his colleagues, of managers, and of his peer CIOs — and an extraordinary record of investing, building and leading teams, and representing what is best about Yale.” 

Mendelsohn, a Yale College graduate, joined the investment office after graduation in 2007, according to the announcement. Over the past 10 years, the venture capital portfolio, which he has most recently overseen, has returned 21.6 percent annually. 

Mendelsohn also spent nearly a decade overseeing the endowment’s leveraged buyouts portfolio and helped manage Yale’s domestic and foreign equities, absolute return, and natural resources asset classes, according to the statement.

Mendelsohn, like Swensen when he started out, is a young CIO at 36 years of age. From 2013 through 2018, Mendelsohn also co-taught an endowment management class at the Yale School of Management alongside Dean Takahashi, Swensen’s longtime second in command and former senior director at the Investments Office.  

“Matt shares David’s hallmark qualities: He’s analytically rigorous both in his disciplined approach to asset allocation and in his first-principles approach to specific investments; he has incredible insight into the character and dynamics of his team and of Yale’s outside managers; and he starts from the core belief that everyone involved with the Yale endowment must operate with complete honesty, integrity, and transparency,” Polak said.   

According to recruiter Charles Skorina, the decision to promote Mendelsohn makes sense. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said by phone Tuesday. “He was slotted in. The only one who fit was Matthew.” 

Mendelsohn signaled his plans for the future of Yale in a statement: “Looking ahead, we will build on the office’s longstanding allegiance to ethical investment practices and develop a diverse team of internal and external investment managers as we seek to continue Yale’s legacy of investment success,” he said.  

Mendelsohn will begin his tenure on September 1, the announcement said. Alex Banker, Yale’s director of investments who served as the investment office’s interim CIO, will return to his role.  

In addition to Polak, the search committee included Francis Biondi, founder of King Street Capital Management; Michael Cavanagh, senior executive vice president and CFO at Comcast; Charles Goodyear, CFO at Goodyear Investment Company; Carter Simonds, former managing director at Blue Ridge Capital; Heather Tookes, professor at Yale School of Management; and Douglas Warner, former chairman of the JPMorgan Chase & Co. board.  

Biondi, Cavanagh, Goodyear, and Simonds serve on Yale’s investment committee. Executive search firm David Barrett Partners, led by Yale alum David Barrett, advised the committee. 

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