'Personal reasons': UVIMCO chief Brightman inexplicably departs
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.