Standard & Poor’s and BusinessWeek announced the winners of its fourth annual Excellence in Fund Management Awards.

Eighteen mutual fund managers or management teams were recognized. Funds were evaluated according to wide ranging criteria, including management depth, experience and longevity, adherence to stated style objectives, the avoidance of excessive turnover, and an ability to produce consistent returns that justify operating expenses, among others. Funds must also have at least $100 million in assets and be open to new investors.

The award’s selection of fund styles and categories is not pre-determined; the committee “just wants to identify outstanding products,” said Phil Edwards, managing director of portfolio services at Standard & Poor’s. While Edwards stressed the importance of low expense ratios in enhancing returns to investors, some winners, like Legg Mason Equity Trust:Value/Prim (LMVTX), have higher than average costs. “Occasionally, we find a fund we think is worth paying up for,” he said. “As with any rule, there’s always an exception.”

Ten of the recognized funds also won in previous years, which Edwards attributed to the award’s screening for management strength and consistency. “If a fund has a good manager, they have an opportunity to do well for a number of years,” he said. “We think it’s prudent to stick with them.”

As evidence, Edwards pointed to the track record of previous winners. Since the award’s inception on Feb. 28, 2003, the average equity fund award winner has returned 24.59% versus 17.10% for the S&P 500. The average fixed income fund award winner has earned 3.83%, versus 3.23% for the Lehman Aggregate Index.

CATEGORY FUND MANAGER (S)
All-Cap Value Stratton Growth Fund (STRGX) James Stratton
Large-Cap Growth Growth Fund of America/A (AGTHX) * Team Managed
Large-Cap Growth T Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund (PRGFX) * Team Managed
Large-Cap Blend Legg Mason Eq. Trust: Value/Prim (LMVTX) * William Miller
Large-Cap Blend Victory Funds:Diversified Stock Fund/A (SRVEX)* Larry Babin/Paul Danes/Carolyn Rains
Large-Cap Value T Rowe Price Equity Income Fund (PRFDX) * Brian Rogers
Mid-Cap Blend ABN AMRO Mid Cap Fund/N (CHTTX) * Thyra Zerhusen
Mid-Cap Value Janus Mid Cap Value Fund/Investor (JMCVX) Tom Perkins/Robert Perkins/Jeff Kautz
Small-Cap Blend Oppenheimer Main Street Small Cap/A (OPMSX) Nikolaos Monoyios/Mark Zavanelli
International Thornburg International Value/A (TGVAX) William Fries
U.S. Real Estate First American Real Estate Securities/Y (FARCX) John Wenker/Jay Rosenberg
Global Templeton Global Bond Fund/A (TPINX) Alex Calvo/Michael Hasenstab
General Intermediate Bonds Dodge & Cox Income Fund (DODIX) * Team Managed
General Intermediate Bonds Harbor Funds Bond Fund/Instl (HABDX) * William Gross
General Intermediate Bonds Managers Bond Fund (MGFIX) * Daniel Fuss
General Short-Term Bonds Fidelity Short Term Bond (FSHBX) Andrew Dudley
Mortgage-Backed Securities TCW Total Return Bond Fund/I (TGLMX)* Jeffrey Gundlach/Philip Barach
High-Yield Bonds Goldman Sachs High Yield/A (GSHAX) Team Managed

*Previous Winner