Goldman Sachs Group Inc , in the spotlight over its controversial plans to pay billions of dollars in year-end bonuses to executives, has invited 272 executives to join the ranks of managing directors, a source familiar with the matter said.

The promotions, which were announced this week, will take effect on January 1, according to an internal memo obtained by Reuters. The source was not authorized to speak on the matter and asked not to be named.

The class of 272 is smaller than 299 promoted during the banner year of 2007. Goldman Sachs declined to comment and would not disclose the number of managing directors promoted in 2008.

The 2010 promotions will make the executives eligible next year for more of Goldman's bonus pool.

Goldman has faced public ridicule for setting aside nearly $17 billion for year-end bonuses after receiving a $10 billion taxpayer bailout. The bank has paid back the government money.

Goldman has reported robust profits in the past two quarters, with net income in excess of $3 billion in each of those periods.

(Reporting by Steve Eder; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)