Business & Tech

Seven Harvard endowment managers earned a total of $58m

N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, the new head of Harvard’s endowment, has been making major changes in how it’s run.

Harvard University Photo

N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, the new head of Harvard’s endowment, has been making major changes in how it’s run.

The seven top-paid managers of Harvard University’s endowment fund earned a combined $58 million in 2015, the institution reported Friday, during a period when the university’s investment performance lagged that of the rest of the Ivy League.

Stephen Blyth, who was then chief executive of the world’s largest educational endowment, took home $14.9 million that year — the latest for which figures are available — nearly 80 percent more than he earned in 2014.

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Notably, several of the other highest-paid managers from that year, including Andrew Wiltshire, Michele Toscani and Marco Barrozo, all have since left the organization, amid overhauls by Blyth and N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, the new chief executive appointed in December.

While Harvard reports managers’ pay by calendar year, investment performance is reported in fiscal years, which end in June. Performance over the periods reflected in the latest compensation was poor, relative to the markets and peers.

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Harvard posted a 5.8 percent gain in the 2015 fiscal year, a return trounced by rival Yale University’s 11.5 percent showing. In fiscal 2016, Harvard lost 2 percent, while Yale gained 3.4 percent.

“Harvard was paying their people top Wall Street money for performance that would’ve gotten them fired on Wall Street,’’ said Charles Skorina, a San Francisco executive recruiter who closely tracks Harvard’s investments and other large endowments.

Harvard University president Drew Faust, whose compensation also is reported in the same annual tax filing, rose 58 percent to $1.9 million, mainly due to deferred compensation that vested in 2015, Harvard said, and $300,000 that will vest in the future. Her total compensation includes university housing.

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The once-high-flying endowment has come under wide and sharp criticism for its lackluster performance over the past decade. In a statement Friday, Paul Finnegan, Harvard’s treasurer, said the $35.7 billion fund is being repositioned “to support Harvard University for the long term.”

He also said the new investment model includes changing compensation so it “fully aligns the generalist investment team with the performance of the overall endowment.”

Harvard’s stakeholders have heard such reassurances before, and yet pay has continued to rise at the endowment in recent years. Narvekar, however, is performing serious surgery at the fund. He’s cutting roughly half the staff of 230 and shutting down internal hedge fund groups. Several investment executives have left to start their own firms. Some will manage Harvard money.

Blyth left Harvard last summer for medical reasons. He has been successfully battling cancer and teaching at the school, but was traveling and unavailable for comment Friday.

Daniel Cummings, manager of Harvard’s real estate portfolio — an area where the endowment has performed well recently — was the second-highest paid executive in 2015, at $11.6 million. He, too, will leave this year, as Harvard spins out the direct real estate investing function, which Cummings will run as an outside operation.

Beth Healy can be reached at beth.healy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @HealyBeth.
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