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Monday, January 12, 2009

'Woody Allen of Fidelity' Opens Up to The Times

by: Armie Margaret Lee

William Danoff, longtime manager of the recently reopened Contrafund and self-proclaimed "Woody Allen of Fidelity," talked to The New York Times' Tim Gray about his fund's performance and his preference for face-to-face meetings.

Contrafund, which had been closed since 2005, reopened on December 16, as did Fidelity Low-Priced Stock, which had been closed since 2003 (see The MFWire, 12/2/08). The two funds' performance in 2008 wasn't far from that of the S&P 500-stock index. Contrafund lost 37.2 percent last year and Low-Priced Stock lost 36.2 percent. The S&P 500-stock index, meanwhile, dropped 37 percent.

Danoff said he understood why investors were pulling out of the two funds for most of 2008.

"We have not done a very good job with our shareholders' hard-earned money," he said. It isn't impressive, he added, "to say I'm in line with the index."

Contrafund had $47.7 billion in assets at the end of October. Low-Priced Stock had $18 billion.

Walter Donovan, president of Fidelity's equity division, insisted that falling revenue was not the driver behind the reopenings.

“This isn’t a business decision, other than what’s right for the shareholders,” Donovan said. “The market’s down, and we’re all up to our ears in investment opportunities.”

Danoff, for his part, said he holds at least 500 meetings a year -- two to three each business day -- with executives of companies hoping that Danoff invest in their firms.

"Woody Allen said that 80 percent of life is just showing up," Danoff said. "I’m the Woody Allen of Fidelity — I show up a lot.” 

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