Feb. 21, 2003 -- Stock picker Warren Lammert, who helped guide Janus Mercury Fund (JAMRX) to strong returns in the late 1990s but has seen it stumble since, is stepping down as the fund's portfolio manager this month and will leave Janus Capital Management at the end of March.
Janus said Lammert, who has run the $4.7-billion fund since 1993, is leaving to "pursue an investment management opportunity outside the mutual fund industry."
Janus money manager David Corkins, who helped Lammert run Mercury from 1997 to 2001, will succeed him on the portfolio on February 28 while continuing to manage the $5.2-billion Janus Growth and Income Fund (JAGIX). Minyoung Sohn, the assistant manager of the Growth and Income fund, will join Corkins on the Mercury fund.
The Mercury fund, which invests in large-cap growth stocks, returned 58.4% in 1998 and 96.2% in 1999, topping the Standard & Poor's 500 index both years. But the fund posted losses and lagged the index in each of the next three years. It currently carries a 2-Star rank from Standard & Poor's.
Lammert's departure is not related to the fund's performance, a spokeswoman for the fund complex said.
"This was Warren's decision," the spokeswoman, Shelley Peterson, said of Lammert's resignation. She added that the move also enables him to focus on his involvement in epilepsy research. Lammert is a member of the board of the Epilepsy Foundation and is involved with the Fight Against Childhood Epilepsy.
Corkins "really doesn't see that he will make any widespread changes" in the way the Mercury fund is run, Peterson said.
The Growth and Income fund, which Corkins took over in 1997, lost 20.2% last year, while the average large-cap growth fund was off 27.6%, and the S&P 500 dropped 23%. The fund returned 16%, on average, for the five years ended in December, versus losses of 3.4% by its peers and 1.3% by the index. The fund has been designated a Select Fund by Standard and Poor's.
Lammert and Corkins could not immediately be reached for comment.