Fund Watch


The Doctor is Out at T. Rowe Price Health Sciences Fund

Nellie S. Huang

The fund’s manager and two analysts depart, leaving a void at this top-notch sector fund.



Former doctor Kris Jenner ably leveraged his experience on the frontlines of health care into a successful investing career. Beginning in January 2000, he was lead manager of T. Rowe Health Sciences (symbol PRHSX), one of the funds we highlighted in "The Best Fund Families". But Jenner, a 16-year Price veteran who also led the firm's eight-member team of health care analysts, has left the firm to "pursue other opportunities," says Brian Lewbart, a company spokesman. Two Price health care analysts, Mark Bussard and Graham McPhail, also resigned. Their last day at Price was February 15.

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The departures leave in question the future of the Health Sciences fund, which earned 11.0% annualized from the time Jenner became manager through February 14, beating the typical health care fund by an average of four percentage points per year. Taymour Tamaddon, who has been an analyst with the fund since 2004, will take over as manager. Five health care analysts remain to support him.

Price is well-known for its team-oriented, collaborative culture, where analysts dive deep into specific sectors and support all of the firm's portfolios with their know-how. That ethos will provide Health Sciences some cushion under its new leadership, but we'd hold off on investing in the fund until Tamaddon has proved himself.

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Jenner's calls on health care stocks influenced the selection of stocks at other Price funds. He played a significant role at T. Rowe Price New Horizons (PRNHX), for instance. Though Henry Ellenbogen is the fund's lead manager — and thus had final say — Jenner managed, with the assistance of the health-care analysts, a small slice (between 5% and 8%) of the $10.5 billion portfolio. At last report, about 19% of New Horizons's assets were in health-care stocks, though Jenner's biotech and specialty drug stock picks made up only about half of that. Ellenbogen will take over the management of Jenner's portion of New Horizons.

Jenner's departure is noteworthy, not just because he was a star manager at T. Rowe Price. The firm is known not only for drawing talent into its fold but also for retaining it. Many of its best managers have been with the firm for decades. For instance, Preston Athey, the manager of T. Rowe Price Small Cap Value (PRSVX) — a member of the Kiplinger 25 — has been with Price since 1978. Larry Puglia, head of T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth (TRBCX), joined the firm in 1990. And Brian Rogers, chairman of T. Rowe Price Inc.'s board of directors, the company's chief investment officer and the manager of T. Rowe Price Equity Income (PRFDX), landed at the firm in 1982.

Price spokesman Lewbart couldn't elaborate on Jenner's plans (or whether analysts Bussard and McPhail are part of them). But we'll be on the lookout for additional news.



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