Stein Roe Loses Fourth Fund Manager in Three Months

Small Company Growth manager Steve Salopek is the latest in a string of departures.
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Maybe it's Chicago's hot summer wind that keeps blowing people out the door at

Stein Roe Mutual Funds

.

Steve Salopek, co-manager of the five-month-old Stein Roe

Small Company Growth

fund, is leaving the firm July 16, a spokeswoman confirmed Friday. His departure comes on the heels of mid-cap manager Eric Maddix's decision to leave just three weeks ago. That flight came after Gloria Santella and Gerry Sandel left the company in May due to a "

restructuring" at the firm.

"Steve's was a voluntary resignation, as was Eric's," says spokeswoman Wendy Rauch. "The other manager departures were related to the restructuring of the fund family. We are actively looking to replace Steve, and we are looking to fill that position rapidly. This is not a downsizing."

Investors have been downsizing the firm's assets under management. For 1999 through May, the firm saw $552 million in net outflows, according to

Financial Research Corp.

of Boston. That's on top of $473 million in outflows for all of 1998. Stein Roe Mutual Funds, a unit of

Liberty Financial

(L) - Get Report

, now has $5.7 billion in assets under management, according to FRC.

Salopek's departure will leave Bill Garrison, Small Company Growth's other manager, to run the fund solo, at least for the time being.

Prior to its launch, Small Company Growth had been an incubator fund run by the

Colonial Group

, another Liberty unit, under the name of

Colonial Aggressive Growth

. But shares of the fund weren't available to the public until Stein Roe took over its management in February. The fund now has $10 million in assets.

"That's when the decision was made that it was important to have a presence" in the small-cap area, Rauch says. "It's a great example of how we're working with our sister company to launch this."

At least that's one positive way to look at it. But even as small-cap stocks have been on a rebound in the first half of this year, the fund has returned only 6.4% year to date, according to

Lipper

. That's below the average 9.5% year-to-date return of its small-cap peers.

But Garrison says the fund will continue to plug away as a diversified, small-cap growth fund.

"I don't really see any changes in the philosophy," Garrison says. "From a practical standpoint, Steve's background had been in the technology area, and that certainly is an important part of our portfolio. We will continue, going forward, to mine that area."

As for himself, Garrison says he has no plans to leave Stein Roe anytime soon. He has been with the firm for 10 years, he said.

"I'm pleased with the opportunity I have here and very much looking forward to the job going forward," Garrison said.