UR endowment is in new hands

When the overseer of the University of Richmond’s treasure chest packed up last month for the West Coast, little time was wasted in finding his replacement.

Srinivas “Srini” Pulavarti announced in June that he was leaving his post as president and chief investment officer of Spider Management Company, which manages $3 billion in assets, including UR’s $1.8 billion endowment.

Rob Blandford

Rob Blandford

Spider Management, a registered investment adviser owned by UR, found a successor within its own ranks and announced Wednesday that Rob Blandford, who had been Pulavarti’s No. 2, would be the new president and CIO.

Pulavarti has since taken a similar position at the UCLA Investment Company in Los Angeles, which manages $2 billion in assets for the UCLA Foundation. He’ll assume that role effective Aug. 1.

Pulavarti’s departure came after seven years at Spider Management. He oversaw the entire organization until it created a chief executive position this year and hired Steve Kneeley.

Blandford will oversee how Spider clients’ money is invested. In addition to the UR endowment, Spider manages money for 22 colleges, universities and nonprofit foundations, mostly in Virginia. Its other clients include Hampden-Sydney College, the Citadel, Virginia State University, the Richmond Community Foundation and the Richmond Symphony.

A UR graduate, Blandford has been with Spider Management since 1999 and most recently served as director of investments.

“With Rob, we know Spider Management is in great hands,” UR President Edward Ayers said in a prepared statement.

Blandford, 55, received his MBA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Before joining Spider Management, Blandford was a portfolio manager at Lowe, Brockenbrough & Co. and a senior investment officer of the Virginia Retirement System.

“Rob is a true Richmonder,” Kneeley said, referring to Blandford’s time at both UR and VCU. “More importantly, he’s a great investor.”

Kneeley, 49, is also a UR grad.

With Blandford already in mind for the post, Spider Management did not conduct a formal search for Pulavarti’s successor, Kneeley said.

“It became apparent we had an internal candidate,” he said.

And because of that, the sense of urgency was minimized.

“The key criteria were looking at the depth and expertise of Rob and the stability of the portfolio,” Kneeley said. “Our view is to do it right, not to do it quickly. Our clients gave us plenty of time to do it right.”

The university did have a say in the decision, Kneeley said, as both the board of Spider Management and the UR investment committee were involved.

Spider Management was created in 2001. It began managing the money of other organizations five years ago. It has 15 employees.

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