Fund manager Morris to leave Price

He directed volatile Science & Technology Fund for 10 years

January 17, 2002|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. said yesterday that one of its best-known mutual fund managers, Charles "Chip" Morris, will leave the company in March.

Morris, who has run Price's $5.3 billion Science & Technology Fund since 1991, said he is leaving to take a job with Integral Capital Partners, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based private investment firm that plans to open an office in Baltimore that Morris will oversee.

"The opportunity to do all of the things they do was one I really couldn't pass up," Morris, 39, said yesterday. "They needed to know whether I was going to be part of the program or not."

Morris, who has worked at Price for 15 years, told company executives last weekend that he planned to resign.

"It was very amicable," said James A.C. Kennedy, director of equities at T. Rowe Price Group, the Baltimore-based mutual fund company's parent. "Chip has been a ... very valued colleague for a long time. He has been performing under a lot of pressure" from having run the fund for 10 years. "He has done a good job; it was time for him to move on."

Michael Sola, who has been executive vice president of the Science & Technology Fund, will take over immediately. Sola joined Price as a technology analyst in 1995 and also manages the T. Rowe Price Developing Technologies Fund.

Robert Gensler, who manages Price's Media & Telecommunications Fund, will succeed Morris as head of the investment management team for the T. Rowe Price Global Technology Fund.

Morris became a star as his fund delivered huge returns during the 1990s. In 1995, the Science & Technology Fund returned 55.5 percent, and in 1999 it was up 101 percent. But as technology stocks began crumbling in 2000, Morris' fund performance turned negative, registering a 34.2 percent loss in 2000 and 41.2 percent loss last year.

"Performance was absolutely not an issue," Morris said. "The performance from '91 through '99 was fine. Obviously, calendar year 2000 and 2001 weren't great years for technology investors no matter what you did. That is still a lot of ground to give back."

At Integral Capital, Morris will join Roger McNamee and John Powell, who are co-founders of the firm. Both also worked for Price, and McNamee preceded Morris as manager of the Science & Technology Fund.

Integral Capital operates a family of partnerships that invests in information technology and life science companies. Among its top holdings are Amazon.com, Flex- tronics and Symantec.

Morris said he will look to invest in information technology and life sciences companies.

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