Friday, July 31, 2015

Harvard Yells "Timber!"

The endowment is falling.... 

"Harvard exits its foray into Romanian timber" by Michael McDonald and Irina Vilcu Bloomberg News  July 23, 2015

NEW YORK — Harvard University’s endowment arm sold 33,600 acres of forest to Ikea Group, exiting a foray into Romanian timberland.

Harvard Management Co.’s strategy of investing in overseas forestry went awry in Romania, where an agent it hired was convicted of bribery and money laundering last year. Prosecutors said the agent arranged with sellers to inflate prices that Harvard-owned Scolopax Srl paid for timberland in exchange for $1 million in cash. He denied committing any crime.

“It highlights the outsize risk of going into these frontier markets,” said Joshua Humphreys, president of the Croatan Institute, a social and environmental research group in Durham, N.C.

Paul Andrew, a spokesman for Harvard, declined to comment.


The purchase makes Ikea the biggest private forestry owner in Romania and gives it a local source of wood for manufacturing. The Swedish furniture retailer has said it bought the forests from Greengold European Capital SA, which is owned by Harvard through a series of investment vehicles. Scolopax sold the property to Greengold last year, Romanian Newspaper Jurnalul de Buzau reported. 

It makes me sick that Sweden would be involved in cutting down trees.

Sorin Chiorescu, chairman of Greengold in Stockholm, and Cristina Gheorghita, a lawyer for Scolopax with TPA Howarth in Bucharest, declined to comment.

Harvard Management, which oversees Harvard’s $36.4 billion endowment, began buying the forests a decade ago under a strategy of acquiring timber and farmland in developing countries such as Brazil and Argentina, as well as in Eastern Europe....

They were not welcome there.


I see nothing to celebrate.