Tags: Legg | Mason | Miller

Legg Mason’s Miller to Exit Main Fund After Falling Behind Peers

Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 09:52 AM

 

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Bill Miller, the Legg Mason Inc. manager known for beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index for a record 15 years through 2005, will step down from his main fund after trailing the index for four of the past five years.

Miller, 61, will be succeeded by Sam Peters as manager of Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust on April 30, the Baltimore-based firm said today in an e-mailed statement. Miller will remain chairman of the Legg Mason Capital Management unit while Peters will assume the role of chief investment officer.

Miller, known for picking stocks he deems cheap based on financial yardsticks such as earnings, became mired in the worst slump of his career as he wagered heavily on financial stocks during the 2008 credit crisis. Value Trust lost 55 percent that year as the S&P 500 dropped 37 percent, including dividends, prompting a wave of withdrawals. The fund’s assets have plunged from a peak of $21 billion in 2007 to $2.8 billion as of Nov. 15, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Miller, who has been a manager of Value Trust since its 1982 inception, in 2010 named Peters, a former Fidelity Investments stockpicker who joined the firm in 2005, to become his co-manager and eventually his successor. Miller initially co-managed Value Trust with Ernie Kiehne, then took sole responsibility in 1990, the year before his winning streak started. Research firm Morningstar Inc. named him fund manager of the decade for his performance in the 1990s.

Betting on Recovery

As markets rebounded in 2009 and 2010, Miller bet the U.S. economy would return to its old strength by investing in financial stocks and consumer-oriented companies. The fund topped peers and the S&P 500 with a 41 percent return in 2009 as markets rebounded, only to fall behind benchmarks again last year with a 6.7 percent gain. Value Trust declined 5.5 percent this year through Nov. 16, trailing 60 percent of similar funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Over the past five years, the fund has fallen at an average annual pace of 9.6 percent, ranking near the bottom of his peer group.

The inability of famed stock pickers such as Miller to protect investors from the market declines has spurred withdrawals from actively managed equity funds as clients shift money into bonds and index products.

Rival firms have revamped their portfolio-management teams this year in an effort to improve returns and win back customers. In September, Boston-based Fidelity named Jeffrey Feingold to run the Magellan Fund, replacing Harry Lange after the stock fund trailed 85 percent of competitors over the previous five years.

Miller worked in the research unit of Legg Mason before being named portfolio manager of Value Trust. He earned an economics degree from Washington & Lee University, where he graduated in 1972. After graduating, Miller served as a military intelligence officer overseas and then pursued graduate studies in philosophy in the Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University.

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