Time may be running out on Legg name

Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Jason Kephart

Time may be running out for Legg Mason, at least as a mutual fund brand name. Legg Mason Capital Management — a household name in the 1990s, thanks to star manager Bill Miller's 15-year streak of beating the S&P 500 — is merging into Legg Mason Inc. subsidiary ClearBridge Advisors LLC, the company announced.

“With approximately $60 billion in assets under management, ClearBridge provides a robust business platform that will afford operating efficiencies,” Legg spokeswoman Mary Athridge said in a statement.

Ms. Athridge said the parent company will be keeping both the Legg Mason and ClearBridge brand names for now, but the situation is under evaluation. If the firm chooses to drop the Legg Mason name from its mutual funds, it won't be the first time. Western Asset Management Co. Ltd., overseen by Legg Mason Inc., dropped its parent company's name from its mutual funds last spring.

One reason the firm could have for shying away from the Legg Mason name is the brand's poor performance since Mr. Miller's famed streak was snapped. Mr. Miller's Legg Mason Capital Management Value Fund lost 36% from 2006 to 2011, almost 50 percentage points worse than the S&P 500 over that time.

Last May, Mr. Miller stepped down from day-to-day management of the fund, which had fallen to $2.5 billion in assets from a peak of $12.5 billion in 1999. The reins were handed to chief investment officer Sam Peters, but he's been unable to stage a turnaround, said Bridget Hughes, a mutual fund analyst at Morningstar Inc.

jkephart@investmentnews.com Twitter: @jasonkephart

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