Advisor Wants to Ensure Fund is in Good Hands

Franklin Mutual Advisors' sub-advisory relationship with Litman/Gregory Advisors is under scrutiny following last week's announcement that two senior managers at Franklin Mutual are leaving the firm.

Litman/Gregory Fund Advisors, the investment advisor to Masters' Select Funds, is reviewing its relationship with Franklin Mutual Advisors -- a subsidiary of Franklin Resources -- which picks one quarter of the stocks that comprise the Masters' Select Value Fund, said company principal Ken Gregory.

The review comes after a management shake-up at Franklin Templeton Investments, which included the resignation of two senior portfolio managers and other staffing changes.

Gregory said his firm is particularly concerned about the promotion of Larry Sondike, a senior VP with Franklin who will begin developing alternative investments for the company, and the impending installation of fund manager David Winters in his place.

Sondike handled the day-to-day management of the Masters' Select Value Fund and helped the year-old fund garner a 24.6% annual return, Gregory said. Now, Litman/Gregory executives want to learn more about his replacement, Winters, and the team of analysts he will use to pick stocks.

'We have to review the organization,' Gregory said. 'We have to spend some time with David Winters and get comfortable with that change.'
Litman/Gregory made the announcement today to reassure shareholders that the change in management will be examined thoroughly, Gregory said.

By October Gregory said his company will make an interim decision as to whether it will stick with the Franklin team. The investment advisor will then continue examining Winters and his team's performance through next year, he said. In the meantime, Gregory says he is confident that the due diligence process will result in keeping Winters' team onboard.

The Masters' Select Value Fund's other managers include Mason Hawkins, who also manages the Longleaf Partners Fund; Bill Mason, who also manages the Legg Mason Value Trust; and Bill Nygren, who also oversees the Oakmark Select.

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