BOSTON (Reuters) - Harvard University paid its top six in-house money managers $29.5 million in 2011, a 45 percent hike from the previous year that it said was due to the "exceptionally strong" returns on the school's endowment during that period.
Harvard, the world's richest university, began tying senior investment manager pay to the performance of its $30 billion portfolio in 2010 after it lost billions of dollars during the 2008-09 financial crisis.
While Harvard's payouts to managers are significantly less than they are on Wall Street or at privately owned hedge funds, news of multi-million pay packages for university employees have in the past angered some alumni.
Andrew Wiltshire, who oversees alternative assets investments, was the Harvard Management Company's best-paid manager in 2011 with compensation of $6.6 million - up about 20 percent from 2010, Harvard said in a press release on Wednesday.
The head of the endowment, President and CEO Jane Mendillo, got a more than 50 percent pay hike to $5.3 million, while Stephen Blythe, who heads public markets, saw his compensation rise to $6.2 million from $5.5 million.
Harvard's portfolio grew by 21.4 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, before shrinking 0.05 percent to $30.7 billion during the fiscal year that ended in 2012.
The university's 2010 pay overhaul tying compensation to endowment performance came as Wall Street's huge salaries and bonuses angered many Americans, who blamed bankers' mistakes for high unemployment and the economic crisis.
Under the system, Harvard managers can only get a pay hike if they out-perform the market.
While up in 2011, pay among Harvard's top managers remains down sharply from the $107.5 million posted in 2003 when fury over manager compensation hit fever-pitch and contributed to Jack Meyer's 2005 departure as the portfolio's CEO.
After Meyer left the endowment continued to perform well, hitting a record of $36.9 billion in the year that ended 2008.
Unlike many prominent schools, including rival Yale, Harvard has allowed only a portion of its funds to be overseen by outside managers with internal managers still doing a lot of the stock picking.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)