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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Fund Dies After Manager Packs Up

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

The attempt by many fund firms to convince shareholders that team management matters more than a star manager may not be working. The latest evidence that the man behind the curtain cannot be ignored is being provided by Schroder, which is now planning to merge its Ultra Fund out of existence.

The firm filed paperwork with the SEC to merge the fund into its U.S. Opportunities Fund.

The merging of the fund is being prompted by a precipitous fall in assets. That drop was, in turn, caused by the departure of Ira Unschuld at the end of 2002. Unschuld started his own money management shop running hedge funds and many of the Ultra fund shareholders reportedly followed him out the door. When word of Unschuld's plans first circulated the fund held roughly $160 million in assets. The filing showed that the fund is down to about $10 million today.

The departure underlines the fear at many fund distributors that star portfolio managers will be able to walk away with fund assets. It also highlights how important individuals still are to the brand of many funds, and more intriguingly, how a high profile manager is able to pull in assets even in a bear market. In short, fund firms touting team managers may be missing an opportunity because they are trying to protect themselves.  

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