These manager changes could spur tax headache.
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This article originally appeared in Morningstar FundInvestor, an award-winning newsletter that presents investment strategies and tracks 500 funds.
When a fund changes managers, it makes sense to re-evaluate its prospects, whether you already own it or merely are thinking of buying it. Sometimes the new manager is less experienced than the previous leader. Conversely, at times the new manager has a longer record--and a better one--than his predecessor. Moreover, there's the style issue to consider: Whether or not the new manager is talented, if the fund changes strategy, it may duplicate a style you already have more than enough exposure to.
A different factor, though, is rarely considered by most investors when there's a manager change: Will the fund make a huge capital gains distribution as a result of the switch? It's not an esoteric question. Though there are exceptions, when a new manager comes in, the portfolio typically changes significantly. Occasionally there's a wholesale overhaul. If capital gains have built up in the holdings that the new manager sells, the fund's shareholders will owe taxes on those gains next April.
Because of this chance for an unpleasant tax surprise, it makes sense to tread cautiously when evaluating funds that have (a) substantial potential capital gains exposure built up in their portfolios, and (b) a 2007 change of management that is likely to result in a good deal of portfolio turnover. Here are three funds that fit that pattern.
Oppenheimer Developing Markets
Potential Capital Gains Exposure: 44%
In one of the most surprising manager changes of 2007, Mark Madden left Oppenheimer--and thus this fund--in May. Madden had arrived just three years earlier from Pioneer, where he had racked up an admirable record over a decade at the helm of that shop's emerging-markets fund. Replacement Justin Leverenz has been a senior analyst at Oppenheimer's global fund, so it's not guaranteed that there will be dramatic changes in the composition of the portfolio--as there almost surely would be if the new leader had come from the outside. Even so, Leverenz does plan to reduce the overall number of holdings in the portfolio. And with a large capital gains exposure built up, it's quite possible enough changes will take place to create a significant tax bill.
T. Rowe Price International Stock
Potential Capital Gains Exposure: 36%
T. Rowe Price announced that Bob Smith, who currently runs T. Rowe Price Growth Stock
Harbor Large Cap Value
Potential Capital Gains Exposure: 34%
Jeff Shaw, whose performance had not been impressive relative to rivals in the past few years, was replaced by Rick Helm in June. This fund could undergo a complete overhaul, for while both managers are value-oriented investors, their approaches are not identical by any means. At the most basic level, new leader Helm is more focused on companies that will be increasing their dividends. And based on his actions at other funds he ran, he could well double the size of the portfolio to 60 or 70 stocks. Such changes could easily trigger significant capital gains here.
Gregg Wolper is a senior analyst with Morningstar.