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Transamerica Premier's Treick Passes on Aegon Deal

The star fund manager, who says he prefers a smaller focus, is leaving Transamerica to launch his own money-management firm.

Bigger isn't always better -- at least not for star fund manager Philip Treick, who has resigned from the growing

Transamerica Premier

funds to launch his own money-management firm.

Transamerica was recently acquired by



, a deal that forms the third-largest insurance company in the U.S. and should put more muscle behind the firm's fund unit. Treick, however, has decided to take a pass.

"I prefer a smaller focus," says Treick, who managed the


Premier Aggressive Growth and


Premier Small Company funds. "The combined companies are going to pursue, I believe, an investment advisory business on a larger scale than Transamerica currently does by itself."

Christopher Bonavico, who co-managed the two funds with Treick, will now assume the role of primary portfolio manager on both funds.

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Treick piloted the $206 million Premier Aggressive Growth to an 84.1% return in 1998, and he posted an 80.3% return with the $233 million Premier Small Company during that time. The funds are returning 8.0% and 21.9%, respectively, year to date.

Treick, who was with Transamerica since 1988, will launch

Aesop Capital Partners

in San Francisco later this year. He's partnering with John Kanellitsas, who comes from

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

, and William Haggerty, who served as chief operating officer of

Bowman Capital

, a San Francisco money-management firm.

In recent years, Treick's red-hot performance and

likable personality made him a public face for the firm's asset management side, along with Jeffrey S. Van Harte, manager of the firm's


Premier Equity fund. With that background, Treick says, leaving the firm as it was getting bigger wasn't easy.

At his new firm, he says he'll continue to concentrate on growth names that "dominate their space, irrespective of market cap."

For his part, new manager Bonavico is enthused by his new role at the helm of the two funds. "I've put a lot of stocks into these funds and contributed to the performance," he says. "It was a natural for me to just continue with their management."