An icon of the mutual fund industry, Michael Price, has left the fund company he made synonomous with value investing, Mutual Series, which he subsequently sold to Franklin Templeton.
Price's departure was announced last week along with the resignation of two of his long-time senior portfolio managers, Raymond Garea, senior VP and manager of the Mutual Financial Services Fund and Robert Friedman, senior VP and manager of the Mutual European Fund.
"These guys have all been with the group for a long time," said Lisa Gallegos, a company spokesperson. "If you look at the years they've spent at Mutual Series, it's pretty normal to think they'd want to do something different."
Garea and Friedman decided not to renew their contracts, which expire at the end of September and Price will leave at the end of October, the company said. Peter Langerman, the firm's CEO, will assume Price's duties.
Price is not expected to resurface in the asset management world any time soon, according to industry observers. Contractual obligations are likely to keep him on the golf course and managing his own money for some time, they say.
Price signed a contract with Franklin Templeton valued at between $700 to $800 million when he sold Heine Securities five years ago, according to Geoff Bobroff, an industry consultant. A lengthy non-compete clause, which is standard in such contracts, will keep Price out of the industry for years to come, Bobroff said.
All of the executives and Jeff Altman, who resigned earlier this year, were with Mutual Series before the 1996 sale to Franklin Templeton.
That means there are no original members from Heine Securities involved in the portfolio management of Mutual Series funds, according to Roy Weitz, a financial advisor and publisher of FundAlarm.com, a website that tracks manager changes in the fund industry. "This is a new firm," he said. "My opinion is you have to evaluate this as a new firm."
David Winters, senior VP and director of research has been promoted to president and chief investment officer, a position that has remained vacant since April 2000 when Friedman voluntarily stepped down from that position, according to Gallegos. Friedman was named CIO in 1998, but removed himself from the position after the firm formed a portfolio management committee, she said. "It was something that he wanted to do," Gallegos said. "It just made sense to have (a portfolio management committee) as opposed to a CIO. And he wanted to focus a little more time on the fund."
Garea is planning to start his own hedge fund, according to Gallegos, saying she didn't know what Price and Friedman had planned.
The firm also announced several promotions and new hires. Larry Sondike, a senior VP with Franklin Mutual Advisers and manager of the Mutual Shares Fund and co-manager of the Mutual Beacon Fund, will transition out of managing funds and begin developing alternative investment products for the company. Susan Potto and Jeff Diamond were promoted to co-portfolio managers of the Mutual Qualified Fund and Diamond was named assistant manager of the Mutual Financial Services Fund. The firm hired Matthew Haynes to co-manage the Mutual Beacon Fund in addition to Michael Embler, a bankruptcy and distressed securities specialist and John Wimsatt, a financial institutions analyst.