Top LP Dolan leaves Harvard

Never afraid to speak his mind on fees and fund size, Peter Dolan set the standard for big LPs. The industry awaits his next move with interest.

Peter Dolan, of the most influential limited partners in the industry has left his long-time perch at Harvard Management Company, where he presided over almost two decades of unprecedented access to top-flight managers.

“People very much respected his opinion and he has always been very outspoken,” Maria Boyazny, founder and chief executive of MB Global Partners, told PEI in a recent interview. Boyazny, who has known Dolan for many years, says: “He was a really good guy and very fair. It’s the end of an era at Harvard and the beginning of a new era for Peter.”

So far, Dolan has remained silent on why he left Harvard and whether he is taking another role somewhere else. His last day at Harvard Management Company was 10 April, and he’s been replaced on an interim basis by John Shue, who is heading up the private equity and venture capital portfolios.

Dolan has always been outspoken when he felt a fee was too high or a fund size too ambitious. He’s been known to turn a “dark crimson as he vociferously airs his opinions on the private equity market”, according to a PEI profile of him back in 2003. “Dolan zeroes in on the integrity of the GP in executing what was promised in the PPM; any differential between promise and delivery will be questioned.”

In an article for Daily Finance in 2010 about the struggles of the venture capital industry, Dolan was quoted as saying: “When I ask a VC partner to explain a fund’s poor performance, he just says: ‘Be patient, the cycle will turn.’ Society, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs would all be better off if VCs quit their jobs and started doing something different.”

Harvard’s private equity portfolio, which was valued at just over $7 billion as of June 2012 (with about $2 billion of unfunded commitments) has enjoyed mixed fortunes lately: in fiscal 2012, it returned 1.99 percent, below its 4.04 percent benchmark.

However, there is no doubt that the departure of Dolan means the endowment has lost a major force in the LP world. Hopefully those who have worked under Dolan have picked up a few of his tricks around due diligence, dealing with fund managers and – most importantly – picking winners.