'Personal reasons': UVIMCO chief Brightman inexplicably departs

news-rotunda-snow-uvimco-brightmanBrightman arrived at UVA in December, 2004. HAWES SPENCER PHOTO; UVA PHOTO INSET

Christopher Brightman, the man at the helm of UVA's investment arm–- which lost a billion dollars during the 2008 market turmoil–- has suddenly resigned for "personal reasons" unrelated to the group's operations, according to a published report.

Brightman, who, a little over a year ago, steadfastly declined to directly speak with Charlottesville reporters about the endowment funds he was managing, appears to be maintaining that silence. However, he apparently did tell a financial newsletter called Pensions & Investments that he plans to return to the investment world after resolving his unspecified personal issues.

In the late 1990s, the University of Virginia Investment Management Company, or UVIMCO, began earning market-beating returns by emulating Yale with high-risk, high-reward instruments such as hedge funds and private equity. Hired near the end of 2004, Brightman continued the strategy; but when the markets soured in the fall of 2008, he found himself presiding over an endowment pool that had plummeted nearly 20 percent–- falling from approximately $5 billion to approximately $4 billion.

"Sorry, UVA alumni," wrote one influential blogger, "you're going to have to make those gifts all over again."

Headquartered on Ray C. Hunt Drive in the Fontaine Research Park, UVIMCO, which operates independently of the University, was paying Brightman a compensation package totaling over $2.5 million in 2008, the last year for which figures are readily available. Ironically, that's nearly double what he was earning two years earlier when UVIMCO achieved significantly better results.

When lured away from the private sector five years ago, Brightman, then 43, was overseeing over $9 billion in assets for Arlington-based Strategic Investment Group. UVA President John Casteen–- who publicly supported Brightman during the year-ago shrinkage–- lauded him on arrival as someone with "the right balance of skills to whom we can entrust the future of our endowment."

At the beginning of Brightman's tenure in December 2004, UVIMCO had 11 employees as it neared the $2.5 billion value mark. Today, even after Brightman's departure and the February exit of his executive assistant, the employee count stands at 23; and another two positions are advertised as open on the UVIMCO website.

As he did before Brightman was hired, UVA's chief operating officer, Leonard Sandridge, has stepped in to run UVIMCO's administration on an interim basis, according to University spokesperson Carol Wood, who says a national search for a permanent replacement will begin immediately.

An email and a phone call placed to Brightman Friday afternoon were not immediately returned.


Actually WBF, to be completely honest, the first post I made was pure speculation and then, after further inquiry, ( would you call that sleuthing ?), I was told that his leaving was not for financial reasons. Now, here is my ethical dilemma, even though I was told in confidence why he is leaving, I was sworn to secrecy, and so, not being one to break confidences, I must leave it to others- to report.
Ah, the life of a detective.

I appreciate the Hook for trying to cover University news, one rarely sees anything but University press releases in this town, carefully orchestrated to advance the Development Department of UVA. This news item seems not to be one the University wants reported, and so, it looks like the Hook had to dig for it.

Understandably, people are concerned when the man in control of so much university money suddenly decides to leave, and the month before his executive assistant also resigns. Mr. Brightman and the University owe the community a better explanation than, left for "personal reasons." I hope Mr. Brightman will return Mr. Spencer's call and provide a more detailed description of what his reason for leaving is.


Check his bank account-

My sleuthing tells me that our new madame president Dr. Teresa Sullivan took one look at this guy's record and politely said --time to leave ?--our pastures aren't so green anymore.

Dr. Sullivan's background may signal a change in investment strategy at the University. Dr. Sullivan's own academic research focused on labor force demography, with particular emphasis on economic marginality and consumer debt. Who files for bankruptcy and why is the topic of her most recent work.

Sleuthing sometimes leads to dead ends--although, my earlier hunch may be logical, given the changing of the guard --think this time I may be wrong.

Casteen will probably be willing to share stock tips he gathers on the Altria/Philip Morris board.

I don't think the " influential blogger" Mr. Blodget, who points out that-" At this point, however, it appears that UVA may win the prize for the most wholesale destruction of alumni gifts.. 75% of the endowment pledged to highly illiquid investments" would agree with this assessment by Mr. Sandridge:

"UVIMCO's experienced staff understands the challenges of the global markets. They have invested for the long term and have been able to help the University withstand previous financial crises. The endowment has been positioned to minimize the market risks.


This time they blew it, and now, their top guy and his executive assistant are leaving, and Sandridge and Casteen wouldn't be far behind.

So who has been hired to audit the books?

Hawes, labeling Henry Blodget a "blogger" is the equivalent of saying you're the editor of a newsletter. His platform and reach (tv, multimedia) are far larger than most people's conceptions of blogs.

Are you sleuthing or speculating?

So right WBF, to be precise --speculating. A good friend pointed out this distinction to me -- I always appreciate your astute and constructive comments on this web-site.

It turns out he wasn't as much of a "bright man" as everyone had hoped.

Too bad Bernie Madoff isn't available. I'm sure he could bring the endowment spectacular returns...

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