Dec. 19, 2002 — Money manager Richard Lawson, who has run Weitz Series Fund:Hickory Portfolio (WEHIX) with mixed success since its inception in 1993, will leave Weitz & Co. at the end of the year.

Weitz’s president, Wallace R. Weitz, who manges the firm’s two other stock mutual funds, will succeed Lawson on the $190-million Hickory Fund in January.

Lawson is stepping down to “manage his own portfolio and to pursue other interests,” Weitz said in a letter to shareholders posted on the fund complex’s Web site. A company spokeswoman said Lawson’s departure is not related to the Hickory Fund’s performance.

The fund beat the S&P 500 index from 1995 to 1999, but has lagged the index since, posting losses of 17.2% in 2000 and 4.7% in 2001. Weitz Hickory was down 23.4% this year through November, while its small-cap value fund peers were off 9.5%. The fund carries a 1-Star rank from Standard & Poor’s.

Weitz told shareholders that while there will be changes in the Hickory Fund’s portfolio after Lawson leaves, it would be “premature to discuss specific” moves. However, Weitz said he expects to continue to own relatively few stocks and to focus on small companies. The fund owned 34 stocks at the end of last month.

Weitz also said he has no plans to reopen the fund, which has been closed to new investors since August 1998.

Lawson and Weitz could not immediately be reached for comment.