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He Manages A Million But Still Can't Drink

Chris Lahiji is tired of being mocked. After making headlines in this publication (BW -- Apr. 21) and others for reading thousands of annual reports and creating a virtual mutual fund at the tender age of 19, he recently scored a job as a portfolio manager of the Frontier Equity Fund (FEEPX) in Hartland, Wis. But that hasn't stopped the ribbing. "One guy I met at a conference was making fun of the fact that I can't even legally drink, and I manage people's money," says Lahiji, now 20.

Lahiji wants to be judged on his performance, not his age. So far, so good. Since he took over the small-cap fund in September, it has gained 19.2%, handily outpacing the 12.1% return of the Russell 2000 index of small stocks. Still, the fund's expense ratio is a stiff 5% of assets, down from an ungodly 44% last year. Lahiji agreed not to take a salary until the expenses come down even more. He's hoping that his returns and his connections with some wealthy families in his hometown of Santa Monica, Calif., will draw cash to the $1.1 million fund. His own family invested $94,000.