Most individual investors have stood by the sagging

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Janus Venture fund, but one pro just fired the fund's management team.

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On Tuesday

American Skandia

said it plans to replace


with rival growth-manager


at the helm of its

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ASAF Janus Small-Cap Growth mutual fund and

AST Janus Small-Cap Growth

subaccount for variable annuities. The move, effective in September, comes after a tough year in which Janus' small-cap growth team trailed virtually all its peers, according to Chicago fund tracker



Janus managers will continue to skipper seven other Skandia portfolios. But this dismissal should probably give shareholders of the Janus Venture fund pause, since it's their fund's managers, led by William Bales, who are being dismissed.

Closed to new investors since 1991, the $1.3 billion Venture fund has seen only light redemptions. But like many Janus funds, it rode tech stocks to heady gains in 1999 and has since taken big losses. The fund's 46% tumble over the past year nearly doubles its average peer's 24% fall.

In addition to "poor performance," the Skandia statement cited a recent management change as reasons for switching managers. Former co-manager Jonathan Coleman

left the small-cap team to help run the firm's flagship


Janus fund last December, but Bales stayed on; he has run the Venture fund since 1997.

James Smith and Jerome Heppelmann of PBHG will take over for Bales and his colleagues. Their

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PBHG Strategic Small Company fund sports a 13.2% annualized gain over the past three years, compared with 6.4% for Venture.

"We understand that they were not happy with last year's performance, but we still believe in the merits of our small-cap team," says Janus spokeswoman Shelley Peterson.

That might not be so easy for Janus Venture shareholders, for whom the fund's tech-driven 141% gain in 1999 seems an increasingly rare highlight. The fund has trailed the

Russell 2000 Growth Index

and its average peer in seven of the past 10 years, according to Morningstar. The fund trails the small-cap growth category average over the past one, three, five and 10 years.

Despite those disappointing returns, redemptions from the fund haven't been steep enough to force Janus to open it to new investors. That said, the American Skandia fund's shareholders seem less patient. So far this year redemptions from the Skandia fund have outpaced investments by $112 million, compared with $59.1 million in outflows for the Venture fund, according to Boston fund consultancy

Financial Research Corp


Janus isn't the only growth manager to get the ax for losing 1999's gains over the past year. Last week

RS Investments


Elijah Asset Management

on two funds, and last month Vanguard


Lincoln Capital Management

after two bad years from the

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Vanguard U.S. Growth fund.

Fund Junkie runs every Monday and Wednesday, as well as occasional dispatches. Ian McDonald writes daily for 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, but he cannot give specific financial advice.