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BEAR MARKET ANNIVERSARY | Downturn Leaves Trail of
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Fritz Reynolds

Fundamentally optimistic

March 16, 2003|Josh Friedman

In 1999 and 2000, accolades for Fritz Reynolds came as regularly as new highs in the raging bull market.

The Bay Area mutual fund manager -- whose best-known portfolio, Reynolds Blue Chip Growth, racked up some of the highest returns in the industry through the late 1990s -- was a fixture in magazines such as Smart Money and Mutual Funds, on TV shows such as CNBC's "Power Lunch" and in books such as Kirk Kazanjian's "Wizards of Wall Street."

"All along I felt if I provided a good product, the world would beat a path to me," said Reynolds, who opened his own shop in 1985. He launched Blue Chip Growth three years later.

Assets of the flagship fund swelled to a high of $580 million in March 2000, coinciding with the climax of the bull market.

For Reynolds, 60, who runs the fund and four others from his Marin County office on San Francisco Bay, that was then and this is now.

The fund has shrunk to $80 million in assets, after losing roughly an annualized 35% over the last three years and getting hit by investor redemptions.

Reynolds vows to continue "betting on the best companies in the best industries."

"It doesn't make any sense to change your style when it's out of favor, especially if you're in high-quality investments," said Reynolds, whose longtime holdings include Microsoft Corp., Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "It's another thing if you own a bunch of rapscallions."

Of course, Reynolds is unhappy with his recent results, especially since his family and golfing buddies are among the investors in Blue Chip Growth.

If and when a bull market returns, Reynolds says he plans to take steps to temper volatility by adding more dividend-paying stocks and keeping a closer watch on sector weightings, which can get out of whack if an industry such as technology soars in value.

He remains confident, however, in his portfolio's "who's who of leaders."

"We've been hurt badly but at least there will always be a tomorrow for these companies," Reynolds said.

That's more than can be said for one of his biggest bull-market fans: Mutual Funds magazine went out of business in October, a victim of the advertising downturn.

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