After closing ten years ago in 1997 to new investments, Fidelity reopens the Magellan fund on January 15th. If you did any investing in the 1980s or early 1990s, you are probably familiar with this fund. The Magellan fund put the now-famous Peter Lynch on the map as an investing superstar while he ran the fund from 1977 to 1990. During his tenure, he was able to produce 29% annual returns which was double what the S&P 500 did over the same period.
Lynch also coined the phrase “Invest in what you know.” This philosophy simply means that you should invest in companies that you personally know and understand. This led to a surge of investments headed into the retail and restaurant sectors where people invested in the companies they visited regularly.
Not the Same Fund
While Magellan crushed the market throughout the 80s, it became very popular and everyone wanted in. This allowed the fund to grow to over $45 billion in assets, making it the largest stock fund. This extremely large size created problems for moving money around, so in 1997 the fund closed to new investments.
In 2005 Harry Lange took over as manager, and things got off to a rough start. In 2006 the fund lagged over 8% behind the S&P. This was in part due to the size of the fund and the strong growth component, but that isn’t why the fund is reopening. Many of the investors still holding shares of this fund are baby boomers who will begin drawing money from this fund in the coming years. To match the outgoing money, the fund was reopened to allow new money to come in.
According to Forbes:
Lange pays little attention to indexes when assembling his portfolio. That ups the fund’s chances for differentiated returns,” writes Lefkowitz. That answers a familiar criticism of Magellan, that because of its size it’s nothing but a glorified index fund. That no longer seems to be the case. Lange points out that the median market cap of his holdings, around $30 billion, is about half the median market cap of a stock in the S&P 500. This is not the brontosaurus that Fidelity closed.
It is hard to ignore a flagship fund like this, even with sub-par performance in 2006, but I think it’s too early to tell for sure. Clearly this fund has an amazing track record, but with relatively new management and investment philosophy I’d be cautious to jump too soon. The good news is that for 2007 the fund appears to be back on track posting an annual return of over 11% compared to the S&P’s 5.5%. Much of this has to do with the more aggressive growth stance that the fund has taken over the past few years. Will this performance continue to pan out? I can’t answer that, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.