Harvard Paid Former Endowment Chief Mendillo $13.8 Million

  • Mendillo retired in 2014 after more than six years at fund
  • Current CEO earned $8.3 million running public markets group

Harvard University disclosed Friday that former investment chief Jane Mendillo received $13.8 million, reflecting 18 months of compensation at the largest endowment in higher education.

Mendillo, 57, ran Harvard Management Co., the university’s nonprofit investment arm, for more than six years, leaving at the end of 2014. Mendillo declined to comment on her compensation.

With a $37 billion endowment, Harvard is known for paying top dollar to investment staffers. Its top six endowment managers earned a combined $50 million in 2014, up slightly from $49.3 million in 2013.

“Running an endowment for the most part is good money but it’s not Wall Street money,” said Charles Skorina, a San Francisco-based executive recruiter who focuses on senior investment officers. “Harvard pays its top people Wall Street money.”

The school trailed its elite peers under Mendillo. In the five years through June 30, it produced an annual average investment gain of 10.5 percent, the second-lowest in the eight-member Ivy League and almost four percentage points less than rival Yale University.

“It seems like they’re not paying the market price for talent,” said Ge Bai, an assistant professor of accounting at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, who studies compensation at nonprofits. “They’re paying extremely high bonuses to get mediocre performance.”

Alternative Assets

The university was among the first to diversify into harder-to-sell alternative assets from traditional stocks and bonds, pioneering a model of endowment management under former chief Jack Meyer. Mendillo, who succeeded former Pimco chief Mohamed El-Erian when hired in 2008, raised cash by selling more than $1 billion of those prized private equity stakes at a discount. Some critics say she missed out not investing at the lower prices.

In January 2015, Mendillo was succeeded by Stephen Blyth, who was in charge of overseeing internal trading of stocks, bonds and other securities. Blyth, 48, was paid $8.3 million as managing director of public markets in 2014, according to Harvard’s statement Friday. That’s down from $11.5 million the previous year, university tax documents show.

Blyth last year laid out a plan for overhauling the portfolio, making asset allocation more flexible and engaging alumni on Wall Street for opportunities. Compensation incentives are being changed, senior management was flattened as people departed, and the investment committee has been remade with new members. Harvard this week eliminated eight positions in its public equities trading unit, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Joined Boards

Andrew Wiltshire, the head of alternative assets who left last year, was second-highest at $10.4 million, Harvard said. That’s compared with $8.4 million in 2013, according to a tax filing. Dan Cummings, managing director of real estate, was paid $8.7 million, up from $5.3 million in 2013. Robert Ettl, the chief operating officer, earned $4.4 million in 2014, up from $4.1 million in 2013. Elise McDonald, an absolute return portfolio manager, earned $4.5 million in 2014; she wasn’t listed as one of the top earners in 2013.

Drew Faust, Harvard’s president, was paid just over $1 million, according to the university’s 2014 tax filing.

Mendillo has become more visible this year, joining boards of investment bank Lazard Ltd, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and General Motors Co. GM paid board members $250,000 last year while Lazard paid directors $119,250 in 2014 plus stock worth $145,750, according to company documents. Mellon, a nonprofit, paid trustees as much as $25,000 in 2013, the most recent data show.

Mendillo’s institutional investing experience makes her a sought-after candidate for corporate boards, said Charles Elson, director of the University of Delware’s John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance. Corporations are actively recruiting money managers to their boards, he said.

“Board are looking for people with significant experience in that area to help them formulate their communication to investors,” Elson said. “Who better than an investor to do that?”

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