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Fund Times: BlackRock Announces Management Changes

Plus, Vanguard's new subadvisor, new PIMCO and Artisan funds, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 06/23/2008

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.

BlackRock has promoted one senior manager, hired one, and said goodbye to another. The family named 17-year BlackRock veteran Andy Phillips, who has been co-head of U.S. fixed income with Stuart Spodek, global chief operating officer for fixed income. In this newly created job, Phillips will focus on the fixed-income division's resources and structure. Despite the change, Phillips will continue comanaging the mortgage-focused BlackRock Government Income CCGAX, his area of specialization, as well as BlackRock Total Return I MAHQX and BlackRock Total Return II BCBAX. Given the expansion of BlackRock's business in recent years (the firm has $1.3 trillion in assets under management, with more than $500 billion in fixed income), we think the creation of a position to aid with the fixed-income division's needs makes sense.

BlackRock coaxed Curtis Arledge, who was a bond manager at the family from 1988 to 1993, to come back from Wachovia WB to replace Phillips as co-head of fixed income on July 1. Arledge has served as Wachovia's global head of fixed income for the bank. His broad experience should prove valuable to BlackRock. At the same time, BlackRock has announced the departure of Todd Kopstein, comanager of BlackRock Low Duration Bond BLDAX, and former head of the firm's asset-backed securities sector team.

Finally, in response to the extraordinary credit market disruptions of the past year, BlackRock has reorganized its sector teams to better account for the way securities have behaved. The firm has divided its residential mortgage sector team into an agency and non-agency mortgage-backed securities teams, the latter of which will be grouped with the asset-backed securities sector team. This change recognizes the differences exposed by the subprime-mortgage meltdown and liquidity crisis between agency-backed securities and their "private label" cousins. BlackRock veteran Eric Pellicciaro will lead the new non-agency/ABS team.

Vanguard Tweaks Its Manager Roster, Again
Vanguard Explorer's VEXPX subadvisor count is back up to seven. Four months after Vanguard terminated its relationship with Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. and gave its own quantitative equity group a bigger slice of the pie, the firm has added Century Capital as a new subadvisor. The Boston-based investment management firm, which currently manages $1.4 billion in assets, uses a concentrated, bottom-up investment approach and looks for profitable companies that use their own cash to fuel their growth. Lanny Thorndike, CIO of Century Capital and manager of Century Shares Trust CENSX and Century Small Cap Select CSMVX will join Vanguard's quantitative equity group, AXA Rosenberg, Chartwell Investment Partners, Granahan Investment Management, Kalmar Investment Advisers, and Wellington Management. Vanguard did not disclose how much of the fund Century Capital will manage. Recently Vanguard's quantitative equity group and Granahan have run the bulk of the fund's assets.

New Funds from PIMCO and Artisan
PIMCO has a new fund in the pipeline. PIMCO Global Multi-Asset is a fund of funds that seeks to beat a 60%/40% blend of the MSCI World Index and the Lehman Brothers U.S. Aggregate Index. Firm co-CEO and co-CIO Mohamed El-Erian will take the helm. This will be El-Erian's second portfolio-management assignment since rejoining PIMCO in January 2008 after a brief stint as president and CEO of the Harvard Management Company. He's also listed as the lead manager of the yet-to-be-launched PIMCO Global Advantage. PIMCO has yet to disclose either fund's expense ratio.

Artisan will launch a new growth fund. Artisan Opportunistic Growth will have the freedom to invest in both large- and mid-cap stocks, but if sibling Artisan Opportunistic Value's ARTLX portfolio is any indication, the fund will likely focus on large companies. Andrew Stephens, James Hamel, and Shayne John of Artisan Mid Cap ARTMX will run the new fund. It should launch in early September, according to regulatory filings. The fund will cap its expense ratio at 1.50% until Sept. 30, 2009. That's still pricey relative to no-load large- and mid-cap funds.

Veteran Fidelity Small Cap Manager Retires
Paul Antico of Fidelity Small Cap Stock FSLCX will retire on July 1. This is a big loss for Fidelity. Antico has been with the firm for 17 years, amassing a fine record during his tenure managing Small Cap Stock. Andrew Sassine of Fidelity International Small Cap Opportunities FSCOX will take over. He joined Fidelity in 1999 as an analyst and followed various industries before joining the international equity group in 2001. He has managed International Small Cap Opportunities since 2005.

Wasatch to Close Two Micro-Cap Funds
After a brief reopening, Wasatch Micro Cap Value WAMVX and Wasatch International Opportunities WAIOX will close their doors again to new investors on June 30. The funds, however, will remain open to existing shareholders. Since reopening May 1, Micro Cap Value's assets have jumped 32% and International Opportunities' assets by almost 9%, according to a Wasatch press release. The two funds currently manage $125 million and $51 million, respectively. With this latest move, the fund shop has again demonstrated its commitment to preserving its funds' ability to own micro-cap gems.

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