T. Rowe Price’s Best Stock Picker Resigns With Two Analysts

T. Rowe Price Group Inc. is losing the manager and two analysts for its best-performing equity mutual fund over the past five years.

Kris Jenner, 51, who runs the $5 billion T. Rowe Price Health Sciences Fund, and analysts Mark Bussard, 40, and Graham McPhail, 37, notified the Baltimore-based firm they will resign effective tomorrow to pursue other opportunities, Brian Lewbart, a spokesman, said in a telephone interview. Jenner will be replaced by analyst Taymour Tamaddon, Lewbart said.

“It’s a rare day when a manager leaves T. Rowe Price,” Christopher Davis, an analyst at Chicago-based research firm Morningstar Inc., said in an interview. “The firm prides itself on stability and low personnel departure.”

Health Sciences beat 83 percent of competing funds over the past five years and outperformed all T. Rowe Price stock funds in that time, returning an annual average of 13 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. T. Rowe has relied in part on the strong performance of its stock-fund managers to attract customers as other equity-focused managers have struggled.

“We are leaving T. Rowe Price and forming a new venture that will allow us to pursue our passion for the health-care industry,” Jenner wrote in a letter obtained by Bloomberg News. “We cannot share our plans with you at this time, in part due to regulatory and reporting requirements.”

Great Success

The letter was sent to “a broad number of contacts” the trio had made in their careers, Justin Jackson, a spokesman representing Jenner at Burns McClellan Inc., said in an e-mail.

Jenner established a reputation for investing in lesser-known pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms working to develop innovative therapies, Davis said.

“He’s responsible for that fund’s great success over the past 12 years, and the analyst team was pretty much built by him,” Davis said.

“We always have a succession plan in place for manager changes,” T. Rowe’s Lewbart said. “Taymour has a long track record of success as a health-care analyst, and investors shouldn’t expect any change in the investment style or strategy of the fund.”

Morningstar, which automatically places a fund’s rating under review when a manager departs, gives the fund its highest ranking of five stars.

Jenner, who earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Oxford University in England and a medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, joined T. Rowe in 1997 and took over the Health Sciences Fund in 2000.

He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was a backup quarterback on the school’s football squad. He threw three passes in the team’s loss in the 1983 Liberty Bowl against the University of Alabama, all for interceptions.