12 Jan New WARF investment director plans to keep steady course
Madison, Wis. — The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has hired a new director of investment, who has worked with the organization since December 1 and was officially announced Wednesday.
WARF licenses the patents generated by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers to companies in Madison and elsewhere, and invests part of its $1.4 billion portfolio in companies that have UW ties.
Thomas Weaver replaced Mark Bear, who retired at the beginning of the year. Though he won’t be changing the management of the portfolio, Weaver said that he intends to change a few of its investments in WARF’s, emphasizing risk management.
Content with the portfolio management strategy that Bear had developed over his 26 years as WARF’s director of investments, Weaver intends to retain his predecessor’s investment approach and focus on rebalancing the portfolio itself. Weaver will evaluate the volatility of each of the portfolio’s investments.
“I’m trying to understand the various economic risk factors that effect the portfolio,” Weaver said. “Right now, the portfolio is very heavily balanced toward equity, and I’d like to balance that out a bit better.”
Weaver, though, said that WARF’s investments in area companies will not be affected at all. He intends to allow these assets to increase even in periods of inflation or economic decline. He may reinvest some of WARF’s money in hedge funds rather than in more volatile stocks.
“We may go to … things we haven’t done in a past,” he said. “Certainly the portfolio was very well positioned under Mark’s leadership; the real reason it’ll be different is because … I’m going to focus more on the risk side. However, we’ve made some investments in area companies. We’re very interested in investing and that’s going to continue as it has.”
Weaver has been acquainting himself with WARF, its systems, and its portfolio since December 1. He has met the board of trustees, moved his family to Wisconsin, effectively replaced Bear.
Weaver has a strong background in investment, and a connection to the University of Wisconsin. The son of the first UW System president, he has been the Senior investment manager of the Fairfax County Employees Retirement Systems in Virginia for the last five years. He was the principal owner and president of Davis, Weaver, and Mendel, Inc., an investment management business in Atlanta, Georgia, for 15 years. Weaver helped that company grow from a startup business to one with more than $300 million of assets.
“After conducting a nationwide search and interviewing many candidates, we feel extremely lucky to have Tom with us now,” said Carl Gulbrandsen, WARF’s managing director, in a statement.
Weaver is equally excited about his new position and opportunities.
“This is new for me, to be directly involved with those who are producing new technology discoveries,” Weaver said. “It’s a very exciting process for me to be involved in the technology that is being invented.”