Janus executives have been planning a management buyout since last summer, when they hired Morgan Stanley to handle the deal, a source told Fortune magazine.

But improving fundamentals at Janus - better fund performance, the first positive inflows in 2-1/2 years and decent third-quarter earnings - combined with speculation over the buyout itself have pushed the value of the stock to the $20 range, $3 above the $17 target price the executives were counting on. When discussions on the buyout began, Janus was trading at $15. Its reached a low of $13 at the end of April, a far cry from its $54 peak in the fall of 2000.

Adding to the speculation that a deal has been in the works is increasing chatter on investor message boards and the resignation of board member Robert Burt at the end of October, who said he "disagreed with some of the strategies that the board was pursuing to increase shareholder value."

Subscribe Now

Access to premium content including in-depth coverage of mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(K)s, 529 plans, and more.

3-Week Free Trial

Insight and analysis into the management, marketing, operations and technology of the asset management industry.