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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Windsor's Lion Dies

News summary by MFWire's editors

A famous mutual fund star has gone out.

John B. Neff
John Neff, former executive vice president of Wellington Management, died on Tuesday at the age of 87. Neff was best known as the longtime star portfolio manager of the Vanguard Windsor Fund, which he ran from 1964 through 1995.

Born September 19, 1931, in Wauseon, Ohio, John B. Neff got his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo in 1955. After analyzing securities for a Cleveland bank, he got his MBA from Case Western in 1958.

Neff then moved east, joining Wellington in 1964 and PMing the Windsor fund. None other than Jack Bogle took over Wellington in 1967, and after the stock market woes of 1974, Bogle created Vanguard to take over the Wellington funds. Yet Wellington stayed on as subadvisor to the funds, and Neff (still at Wellington) continued to PM Windsor (now a Vanguard fund). Neff also PMed the Vanguard Gemini Fund.

Over the course of his career PMing Windsor, Neff beat the S&P 500 by an average of several hundred basis points per year. He beat the index in 23 of his 31 years running the fund. And that track record has not been forgotten: Strategic Insight named Neff one of the 60 mutual fund industry visionaries, Forbes called Neff one of the give greatest money managers of all time, and money managers polled by Carson Group named Neff the sixth best money manager of the 20th century. He also managed the University of Pennsylvania's stock portfolio from 1980 to 1998, helping the university significantly grow its endowment.

Dan Wiener, editor of the Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors, calls Neff "one of the last 'star managers' ... a lion of the mutual fund industry." Wiener describes the PM's style as "contrarian, dividend-focused, concentrated and value oriented."

Through it all, Bogle himself was a client (a big Windsor shareholder, according to Wiener) and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a "frequent partner in an aggressive brand of tennis." Neff's death comes after Bogle died less than five months ago.

Theodore Aronson of AJO Partners tells the Inquirer that Neff should be on the "Mount Rushmore [of] investment management."

Neff was married for 63 years to Lillian Neff, who died in 2017, and is survived by a daughter and one of his two sons, as well as five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The funeral mass is scheduled for Monday, June 10, at St. Monica Church in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, and Neff will be buried in Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family is directing contributions to St. Monica Parish and to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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