51% of Friess Associates sold to Boston company Foster Friess will get $247 million. He and 10 other employees will get 30% of the firm, best known for its Brandywine Fund.

Posted: August 30, 2001

After almost 30 years on his own, fund manager Foster Friess said yesterday that he had agreed to sell about half of his firm for $247 million.

Friess, who runs Friess Associates Inc., best known for its Brandywine Fund, said he sold a 51 percent stake in his firm to Affiliated Managers Group Inc., a Boston asset-management company.

Friess, who is in his early 60s, had been searching for a partner since early this year because of his estate-planning needs. He also sought a way to give his employees ownership in the firm. Some had left in recent years for companies that offered equity stakes. Friess Associates is based in Greenville, Del., but has offices in Wyoming and Arizona.

Bradley Sweeney, who follows Brandywine Fund for Chicago fund-tracker Morningstar Inc., said the sale was "pretty close to a nonevent for shareholders. The top investment people are tied to long-term employment agreements."

After a difficult period in 1997 and 1998, Brandywine Fund improved its performance. Over the last 10 years, it has earned 16.4 percent a year, beating the Standard & Poor's 500 index by 1.94 percentage points a year. The fund has lost about 14 percent of its value this year, but that still beats most funds of its type: stock funds that invest in medium-sized companies.

Affiliated will purchase an additional 19 percent of Friess Associates in three years. The remaining 30 percent of Friess Associates will be held by 11 employees there, including Friess.

Affiliated, also known as AMG, owns stakes in 15 other firms, including Tweedy Browne Co., a well-known international fund manager. A Philadelphia fund consultant, Burton Greenwald, said Friess' emphasis on avoiding overpriced stocks undoubtedly appeals to Affiliated in a market that prefers value, or bargain, stocks.

"This gives AMG a very, very high-profile set of firms at a time when value is the only thing attracting any money," Greenwald said.

Miriam Hill's e-mail address is hillmb@phillynews.com.

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