According to research by McLean, Va. financial planner Barry Glassman, funds with a manager's name in the title – "sir-named funds," he calls them – have been gaining in popularity and for good reason, Money magazine reports.

Glassman found that of the 500 largest equity funds, the names of 16 include the portfolio manager’s name. All but one of these 16 "sir-named" funds beat the S&P 500 over the past three years vs. less than half of the largest 500 funds.

The success didn’t seem to be a bear-market phenomenon either. Fourteen of 16 sir-named funds surpassed the index over the past five years, and 10 of the 11 that have been around for a decade beat the S&P during that period.

Donald Yacktman’s Yacktman Fund was down 17% in 1999, underperforming the S&P by a remarkable 38 percentage points. But then it turned around and soared to the top of its peer group.

However, this result is limited by only looking at the top 500 largest equity funds. According to Morningstar analyst Christine Benz, Glassman lost sight of the fact that there have been losers and some distinctly erratic performers among owner-manager funds as well. For example, four of Garrett Van Wagoner’s five funds performed in the bottom 10% of their peer group over the past five years. As a result, Van Wagoner recently liquidated his Emerging Growth, Post Venture and Technology funds.
Glassman believes the reason for this is that there is a greater amount of involvement in terms of both ego and capital. Owner-managers, experts agree, generally have a sizable chunk of their own assets in their funds; in the case of the Davis Funds, for example, the family is the largest shareholder, with a total of $2.5 billion in holdings.

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