Morningstar's Top Managers of 2001 Tower Over Peers - TheStreet

Like a judge at a demolition derby, Morningstar named its 2001 fund managers and CEO of the year on Friday in the wake of the

worst two-year stretch for stocks in almost 30 years.

The Chicago research house's fund analysts handed out the hardware to the following managers and funds that succeeded in making money in 2001: U.S. stock fund manager: Bill Nygren (

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Oakmark/

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Oakmark Select); bond fund manager: Bob Rodriguez (

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FPA New Income); and foreign stock fund managers: Jean-Marie Eveillard and Charles de Vaulx (

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First Eagle SoGen Global and

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First Eagle SoGen Overseas).

As for their CEO pick, Morningstar's stock analysts doffed their caps to Herb Kelleher, the departing chief executive of

Southwest Airlines

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, and his successor, Jim Parker.

Morningstar has handed out fund manager awards for more than a decade. Though some former recipients have flamed out (see Don Yacktman's sputtering

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eponymous fund), the winners' club also includes the likes of Peter Lynch and Bill Miller. The firm's CEO honor is in only its third year and is less heralded. Let's check out the winners, starting with the fund managers.

Congrats, Bill

Bill Nygren's acumen at fishing for bargains merits this nod.

Like many value investors, he sifts the market looking for companies trading below what they're worth. Unlike many value investors, he's been right far more than he's been wrong, and he's made money for his shareholders whether the value style was surging or sagging. Some of his biggest winners in recent years have been

Washington Mutual

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,

H&R Block

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and

Toys R Us

(TOY)

. The trio is up 82% on average over the past two years. Check out this recent

interview for more details on Nygren's style.

Picks like that have helped Nygren's concentrated Oakmark Select fund, which holds 20 to 25 stocks usually, trounce the market and its peers. The fund, which he's run since its 1996 launch, is averaging a 25.3% annual gain over the past five years. That beats the

S&P 500

by more than 15 percentage points and tops all of the fund's peers.

Even more impressive is Nygren's ability to shine when value is in vogue and also when it's out of favor. In 2001, a good year for value investors, the fund gained 26%, which beat its average peer by 20 percentage points and the S&P 500 by 38 percentage points. During 1999's tech mania, he managed to post a 15% gain, nearly double that of his average peer. He's beaten at least 75% of his peers in each of the five calendar years since the fund's start.

U.S. Stock Fund Manager of the Year: Bill Nygren
His Oakmark Select fund tops the market and its peers

Source: Morningstar. Returns through Jan. 3.

The Select fund is closed to new investors because of spiking inflows, but Nygren has had similar success with the more diversified Oakmark fund, at which he took the reins in March 2000.

While we

picked Fidelity's Joel Tillinghast and Smith Barney's Richie Freeman in this category, Nygren was one of our finalists, and it's hard to knock him.

Good Job, Bob

Imagine a pitcher who wins the Cy Young award and then the batting title a few years later. That's what Bob Rodriguez nearly did this year.

In 1994 Morningstar gave out one award, and Rodriguez won it for his work on the

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FPA Capital stock fund, a small-cap value stock fund, and on the FPA New Income fund, an intermediate-term bond fund. This year he was nominated in both the stock and bond category, taking the bond honor.

Whether he's picking bonds or stocks, Rodriguez looks for value. Unlike most of his peers in the intermediate-term bin, he doesn't closely track an index and isn't afraid to shop lower-quality issues. Despite his contrarian streak, Rodriguez's fund has been less volatile than his average competitor without sapping returns.

The fund beats at least 97% of its peers over the past one, three, five and 10 years. This year, as bonds beat stocks for the second year in a row, he rang up a 12.3% gain that topped 98% of his competitors. At the same time, in his 17 years at the helm, the fund has never finished a single year in the red.

Bond Fund Manager of the Year: Bob Rodriguez
His fund hasn't had a down year in his 17-year tenure

Source: Morningstar. Returns through Jan. 3.

For our part, we

picked Ken Leech and his colleagues who run

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Western Asset Core, which boasts a similar track record in the same category. Both funds prove that the bond world has stars beyond

Pimco

guru Bill Gross.

Nice Work, Jean-Marie and Charles

Jean-Marie Eveillard and Charles de Vaulx don't follow the crowd, and that's why they manage two of the few foreign funds that made money last year.

The tandem tends to focus on small, obscure foreign stocks they think are trading below what cash flows and assets are worth. It can take a while for the market to recognize the value of the pair's picks, but their conservative approach has saved their shareholders money in tough years. That pays off in years such as 2001 when all foreign stock fund categories lost ground, on average.

The First Eagle SoGen Global fund, which Eveillard has run since 1979 and de Vaulx has co-managed since 1987, posted a 10% gain last year and beats the average international hybrid fund over the past one, three and 10 years. The First Eagle SoGen Overseas fund, which both have run since its 1993 start, has a similar record.

Foreign Stock Fund Managers of the Year: Jean-Marie Eveillard and Charles de Vaulx
One of the few foreign funds in the black this year

Source: Morningstar. Returns through Jan. 3.

While the funds lagged their peers in go-go growth years like 1998 and 1999, their all-weather approach sparkled in 2001. That's why they

were our choice in this category, too.

Let's Hear It for Herb and Jim

Morningstar's stock analysts fished their CEO award winners from one of last year's most battered areas: airlines.

According to Morningstar's statement, they picked Herb Kelleher, the Southwest Airlines CEO who shifted to chairman in July, because of his distinct approach and solid gains for stockholders. Unlike most of his competitors, Kelleher designed Southwest to focus on short trips, using just one plane, and he kept his employees happy. By keeping costs low and avoiding costly labor beefs, Southwest's shares haven't had a down year in the past 26 years. The stock's 26% annualized gain over the past 10 years beats the

S&P 500

by more than 12 percentage points.

The analysts picked the company's new CEO, Jim Parker, for his stewardship since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Unlike competitors, he didn't slash staff or flights, and he still managed to post a profit in the third quarter. Over the past 90 days, the stock is up 20%, double the S&P 500's gains.