Updated from 11:10 am EST.
The fund world's equivalent of the
took place Wednesday, with
handing out its Managers of the Year awards. But looking back at past winners shows that these folks aren't infallible in tough years.
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My Favorite Value Funds
Earlier today, the Chicago fund-tracking firm named its picks in the U.S. stock fund, foreign stock fund and bond fund categories. Winning the laurels were the folks who manage the
Tweedy Browne Global Value and
Pimco Total Return funds. (For more on the awards, read
the article on today's site.)
Let's get a little perspective on what the award means to you. Like the firm's well-known star ratings, these accolades can draw fund investors' attention and dollars, but they sometimes painfully prove the old saw that past performance doesn't guarantee future results.
The upshot: These awards are the brass ring for fund managers and marketers, but for fund investors they don't make these funds a must-own. (Scroll down to the
to see the names of a few managers who haven't won the glittering prize but deserve a tip of the cap.)
"The general criteria are that we look for someone with a good long-term record after a year that really showcased their skills. But it's manager of the year, not what fund we think you should buy and hold forever," says Morningstar senior fund analyst Scott Cooley. "You still need to do all the due diligence on these funds. You'll find they haven't always had good years in the past and you shouldn't be surprised if they have rotten years in the future."
Make no mistake, the award is heady praise. Past winners include legendary former
Fidelity Magellan skippers Peter Lynch and Jeff Vinik, as well as current heartthrobs such as
Legg Mason Value Trust manager Bill Miller, the only stock-picker to beat the
in each of the past 10 years.
That said, some former winners have stumbled after winning the prize. Consider 1991 winner Don Yacktman, whose eponymous
Yacktman fund's 6.7% annualized return over the past five years lags behind the S&P 500 by more than 10% and 96% of its mid-cap blend peers, according to Morningstar. Jack Laporte won the award in 1995 and his closed
T. Rowe Price New Horizons fund's 10.6% five-year annualized return trails almost 70% of its peers.
Very recent history shows past winners' are as fallible as most fund managers when the market gets shaky. As stock prices plummeted in 2000 we kept hearing that it was "a stock picker's year," unlike 1999, when it seemed like a drunken chimp trained by Benny Hill could toss darts at a list of tech stocks and ring up a triple-digit return. Sounds like a good time to own funds run by former Managers of the Year, right?
Unfortunately, life's not that simple.
For instance, the three managers who won in 1999 all lost money and lagged behind their peers in 2000 -- we're talking about Jim Callinan (
RS Emerging Growth), Jerry Paul (
Invesco High Yield), the team that runs the
EuroPacific Growth fund. Let's face it, unless you ran a value fund loaded with energy and financial stocks there's no shame in finishing last year in the red. But your peers are in the same boat, and when they take on less water, you might not be living up to the award.
And these folks weren't the only past winners who had trouble last year. Of the 13 winners since 1995 who still run mutual funds, eight run funds that trailed peers last year.
Here's a look at who won the award in the 1990s and how they fared vs. their peers in 2000.
Keep in mind that over the past five years all but one of these 13 winners -- T. Rowe Price's Laporte -- managed to beat their average peer. All this just proves that even solid managers can fade over time or just have a lousy year. For instance, 1998 winner Bill Miller managed to keep his S&P 500-beating streak alive last year, but his Legg Mason Value Trust lost more than 7% last year and he lagged more than 90% of his big-cap value peers. This tough year doesn't mean he suddenly lost his touch, it just illustrates that these top managers can misstep just like everyone else.
While these managers should probably be on your radar screen, as always, you should only seriously consider adding them to your portfolio if their investment style, risk profile and expenses match up with your needs. One other caveat to note is that since these awards often follow many years of solid returns, many winners tend to jump ship or retire after the honor. After all, Fidelity's Lynch and Vinik have left the business and Tom Marsico left Janus to start his own shop.
The Junk Pile
This isn't a petty
Ian McDonald's Me, Too Awards
, but I do have some U.S. stock fund managers I'd doff my cap to.
I think there are a lot of value fund managers worthy of attention as their style come back into favor. Among them, you might look at John Goode, whose
Smith Barney Fundamental Value fund beats the S&P 500 and at least 88% of its peers over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods. And don't forget Howard Schow, Theo A. Kolokotrones and Joel P. Fried, who run the closed
Vanguard Primecap fund. The fund falls in Morningstar's large-cap blend category, but it has value bent. All they've done is beat the S&P 500 and their average peer over the last one-, three-, five- and 10-year periods.
Some folks who earned their stripes in the growth fund camp are Richard Freeman (
Smith Barney Aggressive Growth), James Oelschlager and Donna Barton (
White Oak Aggressive Stock), in addition to John Calamos Sr. and Jr. (
Calamos Growth). In each case, these folks have proved their mettle in a tough year and boast returns that beat the S&P 500 and more than 90% of their peers at least over the last one-, three- and five-year periods. If you'd like some details on Calamos, check out this recent
10 Questions Interview.
As for foreign funds, they had a tough year to the tune of a 15% loss. But Chris Browne, William Browne and John Spears deserve a lot of credit (as today's Morningstar award attests) for the
Tweedy Browne Global Value fund's 12.4% gain last year. They've beaten at least 88% of their peers over the last one-, three-, and five-year periods. If you'd like to hear more, check out this
10 Questions interview with the Browne brothers.
And as I've said in this column before, it's tough not to marvel at Kevin Landis' work on the
Firsthand Technology Value fund. The top fund over the past five years has many fans but some have naturally wondered if he was simply riding the tech wave. Last year, when the average tech fund lost more than 30%, the Tech Value fund only lost 10%. His 190% return in 1999 was stunning, but his modest loss in 2000 probably says more about his talents.
Fund Junkie runs every Monday and Wednesday, as well as occasional dispatches. Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
email@example.com, but he cannot give specific financial advice.