Janus Capital Group on Friday launched two new diversified equity mutual funds in an effort to leverage the firm's research depth, a reputation that was sullied when the market tanked in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble.

Janus' first new retail offerings since mid 2001, the new funds provide further evidence of the Denver-based firm's nascent recovery under the leadership of Gary Black, a former top-rated tobacco analyst who was hired away from Goldman Sachs 10 months ago to right the ship. One of his first tasks at the firm was to restore credibility to the research department, after having served as the poster child for irrational exuberance in the late 1990's.

"Rigorous research is Janus' hallmark," Black said, in a prepared statement. "We go to great lengths to uncover promising companies others may have missed - and I'm confident these two funds will capitalize on our expertise."

One of the new offerings, the Janus Research Fund, will focus solely on the "most compelling" investment ideas of its 1,000 research analysts, regardless of size, industry or location, the company said. The individual securities within the same sector will be equally weighted initially and sector exposure will be kept in a fixed range.

"Research is 80% of the investment process, and it's where we can add tremendous value," Black said.

Jim Goff, the Denver-based firm's director of research, will oversee the fund and be ultimately responsible for day-to-day portfolio management.

The Janus Triton Fund will invest in strong small- and mid-cap companies that are in their early growth cycles. But unlike many small-cap funds it has the ability to own those stocks as the companies grow over time.

Ron Sachs, who already manages the $553 million Janus Orion Fund, will assume the role of portfolio manager for Janus Triton. For the three-year period ended Jan. 31, Janus Orion finished in the top 14% in total returns ranking 48th in a category of 353 funds.

At the end of January, Janus had $132.7 billion in assets under management, a far cry from the more than $300 billion it possessed at its peak in early 2000.

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