HAS A COLD
No longer sui generis, the Harvard Management Company has
retreated back into the pack. The seeds of its collapse, it is now
clear, were sown in its glory days. By Kip McDaniel
In 1966, nearly a decade before the Harvard Management Company was created to invest the
university’s assets, journalist Gay Talese was tasked with writing a profile on Frank Sinatra. Having
flown to Los Angeles to get some face time with the man himself, Talese discovered that Sinatra
had a cold and had no interest in granting Esquire magazine an audience.
So, Talese set up shop among the palm trees and movie stars, stalking Sinatra’s entourage to the
nightclubs and bars they frequented. He never spoke to Sinatra, but the story that came out of
Talese’s experience—“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”—quickly became known as a seminal work of the
New Journalism school.
Fast forward 43 years, and it seems everyone associated with the Harvard Management Company
has taken the cue from Sinatra. Despite posting a remarkable average return of 13.8% between 1998
and the summer of 2008, HMC managers, as a matter of policy, are a reclusive bunch. Now, they
have reason to be: It is very clear that the mighty Harvard endowment, for years the Sinatra of the
institutional investment world, has caught a vicious cold.
Art by Tim Bower / timbower.com