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Morgan Stanley and MFS Shake Up Lineups

Plus, changes at Putnam, Vanguard, and others.

Morningstar Analysts, 12/01/2008

Morningstar's fund analysts cover 2,000 mutual funds. Their full analyst reports, including Stewardship Grades, are available in Morningstar Principia Mutual Funds Advanced and Morningstar Advisor Workstation Office Edition.

Morgan Stanley announced management changes and proposed mergers for several of its funds Nov. 21, 2008. Pending shareholder approval, the $38 million world-stock fund Morgan Stanley Institutional Global Value Equity MSGEX will merge into its sibling, $84 million Morgan Stanley Institutional Global Franchise MSFAX. The $207 million world-stock fund Van Kampen Global Value Equity MGEAX will merge into Van Kampen Global Franchise VGFAX, a superior fund with nearly $1.3 billion in assets.

The team that led both of the soon-to-be-shuttered Global Value Equity funds has been ousted. The departing team members, including Colin McQueen, Douglas McGraw, Martin Moorman, Alexander Vislykh, and Stephen Walker, came on board in waves between 2004 and 2008, giving them little time to mesh as a unit. Their two charges produced uninspiring records that fell roughly in line with the world-stock category average. That performance couldn't measure up to the more successful Global Franchise funds, though, led by Hassan Elmasry, Paras Dodhia, Jayson Vowles, and Michael Allison. The two Global Franchise funds, which are currently closed to new investors, sport outstanding long-term records and have topped the charts during the credit crisis. One analyst from the Global Value Equity funds is expected to stay on, and two more will be hired.

The Global All-Cap team will take over Morgan Stanley Global Dividend Growth Securities GLBAX, another mediocre world-stock fund previously managed by McQueen and company. The new team consists of Nathalie Degans, Margaret Naylor, Arthur Pollock, Alistair Corden-Lloyd, and Jean Beaubois. This team currently runs Morgan Stanley Institutional International Small Cap MSISX, a foreign small/mid-value fund that has amassed a decent track record.

Van Kampen Enterprise ACENX is also getting new management and a shift in strategy. The $712 million large-growth fund, which has floundered in the face of constant management turnover, will say goodbye to Feng Chang and Hooman Yaghoobi and their quant-based approach. The talented growth team, headed by Dennis Lynch and including David Cohen, Sam Chainani, Alexander Norton, Armistead Nash, and Jason Yeung, will take over, employing a fundamental strategy that focuses on strong businesses with steady cash flows. The team has a knack for successful stock-picking and has had an impressive run at several charges, including Morgan Stanley Institutional Small Company Growth MSSGX and Morgan Stanley Institutional Mid Cap Growth MPEGX.PAGEBREAK

Finally, the London-based Quantitative and Structured Solutions group, led by Michael Nolan, Helen Krause, Arthur Robb, and Neil Chakraborty, will assume responsibility for three middling specialty funds. David Walker of the pricey and often-underperforming Morgan Stanley Technology IFOAX and Van Kampen Technology VTFAX has been sent walking. The quant team will take over those two funds as well as Morgan Stanley Natural Resource Development Securities NREAX, a fund plagued with turnover at the top. Mark Bavoso, former comanager of the natural-resources fund, will continue to run Van Kampen Asset Allocation Conservative VACAX, Van Kampen Asset Allocation Moderate VAMAX, Van Kampen Asset Allocation Growth VKAAX, and Van Kampen Leaders VLFAX. The quant team is new to several other funds that changed hands earlier in 2008, including Morgan Stanley Global Infrastructure UTLAX, Van Kampen Utility VKUAX, and Morgan Stanley Health Sciences HCRAX, and will use a quantitative and systematic approach to picking stocks. Although an adjustment is welcomed for these funds, it's too soon to tell how the changes will play out because the new team hasn't established a track record together elsewhere.

MFS Manager Shuffle
MFS has also fired several managers, including Maureen Pettirossi from MFS Massachusetts Investors Growth Stock MIGFX. This large-growth fund has seen several changes to its leadership and investment process in the last few years. The most recent team of Pettirossi, longtime manager Stephen Pesek, and Jeffrey Constantino worked together for only two years before Pesek departed in August 2008. Constantino, who has been with the fund since 2006, is now sole manager. He continues to run MFS Global Growth MWOFX and MFS Massachusetts Investors Growth Stock 529 EISTX.

MFS has also said goodbye to Gregory Locraft of MFS Total Return MSFRX and MFS Strategic Value MSVTX. Locraft worked on both funds for just more than a year and never established a solid long-term record despite previously managing MFS Massachusetts Investors Growth Stock and MFS Massachusetts Investors Growth Stock 529. Joshua Marston, who started at MFS as an analyst in 1999 and who was named director of structured/financial research in 2005, has joined Total Return's fixed-income team. Brooks Taylor will take over Strategic Value and will continue as lead manager of Total Return.

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