Merrill Lynch


is asking shareholders of its


Phoenix fund to loosen the all-cap-value fund's constraints and change its name to

Focus Value

, according to a proxy filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission


For some 13 years, portfolio manager Robert Martorelli has focused on distressed companies he thought were set to turnaround. Over the past one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods, the all-cap-value fund beat its average peer, according to



But if shareholders approve, Martorelli won't have to focus on deep value or turnaround situations anymore. He'll be able to invest in any company he and the firm's analysts think are undervalued. The name change to Focus reflects the fact that the fund holds relatively few stocks, just 40 as of Jan. 31.

The proxy vote comes at a time when deep value investing is way, way out of favor, even among other flagging value funds.

Several vaunted deep value investors are being dusted by value peers.

Martorelli hasn't fared too badly, though. Of course, given the fund's 42% tech weighting on Jan. 31 and high-flying holdings like

LSI Logic

(LSI) - Get Report

, one wonders how strict his approach was to begin with.

Votes on the proxy are due April 26.

American Skandia Adds Small-Cap Fund

American Skandia


ASAF Kemper Small-Cap Growth

to its fund family Wednesday.


Peter Chin will run the fund, which will probably resemble


Scudder 21st Century Growth, a small-cap-growth fund Chin has co-managed since its inception in 1996. The Scudder fund has an excellent track record, with a 51.3% average annual return over the past three years that beats 85% of its peers, according to Morningstar. Over the past year, the fund is up 172%.

Skandia, best known as a variable annuity seller, now offers 18 funds managed by 16 managers from such companies as







T.Rowe Price

. The recent entrant to the fiercely competitive fund world hopes to build assets by offering funds run by other shop's top managers.

Investors should expect a hefty tech stake in the new fund. At year-end, more than 60% of Chin's other fund was invested in tech stocks.

Among the fund's various share classes, the maximum front-end load is 5.75%, while the maximum back-end loads range from 1% to 6%, according to paperwork on file with the SEC. The fund's expenses will be capped at 1.3% for a year. The average small-cap growth fund's expense ratio is 1.7%, according to Morningstar.



Turner Micro Cap Growth, one of the best funds in its category, closed to new investors Tuesday. Current investors can still buy shares.


reported that the fund would close on Feb. 28.

Shareholders of Skyline Funds this week approved the merger of


Small Cap Value Plus and

Small Cap Contrarian


(SKSEX) - Get Report

Special Equities, leaving the struggling value shop with one offering. Bill Dutton, the fund's manager, was


Manager of the Year in 1992. Since then, the highly regarded manager has suffered from the fall of value investment style from favor and steep outflows. Special Equities trails its average small-cap-value peer over every time period, except ten years, illustrating Dutton's impressive results in better times.



reported the merger last Nov. 24.

See Tuesday's

Fund Openings, Closings, Manager Moves.

See Monday's

Fund Openings, Closings, Manager Moves.