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Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Staying the Course

by: Tony Pennino

Surveying the room at the SunStar Spring 2002 Mutual Fund Market Outlook and Press Briefing, David Herro, portfolio manager for the Oakmark International Fund, compared the attendees to the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys from the children's television Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. "Many of us today represent investing styles that have fallen out of favor with the public over the last couple of years," he explained, to the sound of chuckles from his colleagues and members of the press.

Herro's comments, in a way, summarize how Oakmark perceives itself. "We look to be true to the same investment philosophy we always have: value. We stick to our guns," Kelly Arnold, assistant director of marketing, told the MutualFundWire.com. "We see ourselves in a niche market, offering products for those investors looking to diversify their portfolios."

"And we maintain our commitment to value. Even at the height of the boom in the late 1990's, we really did not deviate from that. We saw some cash outflows as a result of that decision. In the long run, though, we feel that investors and brokers appreciate our commitment to our core philosophy," she continued.

"And so our message remains consistent as well. We don't launch a new fund just because it is a popular at the time to do so. We really want to take that long-term approach," the executive contended.

Executives at the firm believe that its funds are gaining a foothold in general investor awareness, and they are looking to capitalize on that foothold. Do not expect Oakmark, though, to wander far from its message of disciplined value approach.

Oakmark offers its products through both the load and no-load channels. On May 6, Oakmark closed its International Small Cap Fund to new investors. Herro is a co-manager on that fund.

And as for Herro, to what does he look forward? "I hope to be standing here in a couple of years not on the Island of Misfit Toys but rather on the Island of Closed Funds." 

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