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Fund Openings, Closings, Manager Moves: Nicholas-Applegate Manager Turns Up at Villanova

Also: Van Kampen reopens Aggressive Growth fund.

Aaron Harris -- last year's number-one stock picker -- has joined

Villanova Capital

as the new manager of the broker-sold

Nationwide Mid-Cap Growth

fund. Villanova Capital is

Nationwide Investing's

asset management arm.

Last month, Harris left


, where he led the


Global Technology fund's management team. That institutional fund managed a gaudy 437% 1999 return -- tops in the industry.

Shareholders of the Nationwide fund should be excited, as former manager Chris Welch had a more conservative approach when he took the reins last year, leading to a mere 10.1% return. This lagged almost all of the fund's peers, according to



A Villanova spokesman says the fund's growth objective will not change, but Harris' more aggressive style, which he may have learned on the gridiron while at Princeton, will be evident.

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Welch's new job will be assisting Chuck Bath, manager of the large-cap blend

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Nationwide fund.

Harris' new fund comes with front-end sales charges of 4.5% and 5% on class A and D shares, respectively. Class B shares charge a 5% back-end load. Annual expenses, however, are below average.

Van Kampen Reopens Aggressive Growth

Fresh off the recent


-led selloff, the doors to aggressive growth funds are swinging wide open.

On May 1, the broker-sold, $2.3 billion


Van Kampen Aggressive Growth fund will reopen to new investors, according to a filing with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

. Portfolio manager Gary Lewis sank almost 70% of its assets into tech and rode them to a 131% return last year, beating most of its mid-cap growth peers, according to Morningstar.

However, its tech weighting has led to a 24% loss over the last month. Once-hot funds often reopen when their bread-and-butter stocks fall, as managers want fresh cash to buy those stocks at cheaper levels.

Chase H&Q

reopened its

IPO & Emerging Company

fund to new investors Tuesday. And


reopened its

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New Opportunities,

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Capital Appreciation and


New Century Growth funds last week.

Both Chase H&Q and Putnam cited suddenly attractive values as the reason for their reopening.

The filing for Van Kampen Aggressive Growth also formally lists Lewis' colleagues on the fund's portfolio management team. These co-managers are Dudley Brickhouse, Matthew Hart, Janet Luby and David Walker. They also assist Lewis in managing Van Kampen's


Technology and


Emerging Growth funds.

Aggressive Growth isn't the cheapest fund around. Class A shares come with a 5.75% front-end sales charge. Class B and C shares charge 5% and 1% back-end loads, respectively.

Annual expenses on class A shares are 1.56%, lower than its average peer's 1.63%. But class B and C shares both charge 2.33%.

Death of Dividends

There's just no money to be made in dividends these days.

Merrill Lynch

intends to ask shareholders of its

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Strategic Dividend fund to allow its managers to buy stocks that don't pay a dividend, according to a filing with the



Stocks' yields are dropping, leaving the large-cap value fund to choose primarily among stocks in the sleepy utilities, energy and financials sectors. That straightjacket hasn't helped performance.

The fund lags the

S&P 500

index over every time period between one and 10 years, though it has managed to keep pace with its average value peer, according to Morningstar. Walter Rogers has managed the fund since its 1988 inception, and the move might give him a bit more wiggle room to boost returns without changing his value stripes.

American Century

made a similar move with two funds last month.

No matter how you feel about the proposed move, you still have time to think it over. The proxies, which haven't gone out yet, aren't due until July 10.

See Tuesday's

Fund Openings, Closings, Manager Moves.

See Monday's

Fund Openings, Closings, Manager Moves.