Better Know a Stock Picker

Welcome, Fools, to part 14 of our several-thousand-part series, "Better Know a Stock Picker," which is loosely, but not too loosely, based on Stephen Colbert's "Better Know a District" from The Colbert Report.

Like Stephen and his thorough investigations into America's congressional districts, each week I take a look at a fund you may want to own. What's on tap this week?

Janus Fund (JANSX)

Expense ratio

0.88%

Fund size

$10.6 billion in assets

1-year return

1.59%

5-year return

(1.59%)

10-year return

6.24%

Source: Janus Capital Group

Top 10 holdings

Company

% of Assets

Boeing (NYSE: BA  )

3.51%

Procter & Gamble

3.13%

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  )

3.10%

JPMorgan Chase

2.97%

Roche Holding AG

2.72%

General Electric (NYSE: GE  )

2.62%

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  )

2.57%

Coventry Health Care
(NYSE: CVH  )

1.97%

Texas Instruments
(NYSE: TXN  )

1.86%

Merck (NYSE: MRK  )

1.86%

Source: Janus Capital Group

Meet David Corkins
The fightin' team at Janus Growth is led by David Corkins, who been with the Denver-based fund operator for more than a decade. That means he's been there long enough to watch the firm enjoy the fruits of the bubble and suffer the stain of scandal.

But he's new to the firm's signature Janus Fund, which was begun by founder Tom Bailey in 1970, and which helped the launch the career of growth guru Tom Marsico. Since inception, the Janus Fund has outperformed the S&P 500 by a little better than 2% annually.

So Corkins has big shoes to fill. What do you want to bet that the Street's stockinistas think he's not up to the challenge? After all, he's down by 1.5% since taking the reins on Feb. 1. Well, boo-freaking-hoo. It's the long term that matters, and Corkins does just fine in that department.

For example, he ran Janus Growth & Income from the summer of 1997 to the end of 2002, managing to stay with the index despite a tough market. His scorecard improved further when he assumed the mantle of the aggressive growth Janus Mercury fund in early 2003. He beat the index by more than 10% in the following three years.

3 Foolish questions
Moving on. There's more to Corkins than stock-picking 'zazz. In our interview, I asked him about how he spends his time when not watching the digital tickertape. Check out his answers to my three Foolish questions:

What car do you drive? Corkins loves his Porsche Cayenne SUV and the company that makes it, which he owned for investors while managing Janus Growth & Income. Does he still? No, but he maintains that Porsche is "one of the best-managed companies in the world."

What do you do when not picking stocks? Apparently, Corkins doesn't get out much. His taste for the complex drew him to study Russian at Dartmouth before earning his MBA at Columbia Business School. Today, Corkins says, "I spend 99.9% of my time studying businesses." Ooooookaaaaay.

What's the best book you've read in the past 12 months? Here, too, Corkins' taste for the complex is staggering. For example, he's digging into Latin American fiction -- in both English and Spanish.

How he invests
What a show-off, right? Actually, I'm not so sure. Corkins simply likes the geeky stuff. He's like a mechanic who examines every inch of a car before performing a repair. And he's looking for two things: growth and fallen growth.

Growth businesses, he says, produce consistent free cash flow. Examples that he mentioned during our interview include Genentech and GE, which is a top 10 holding.

Corkins described fallen growth a bit differently. Here he's looking for an attractive but misunderstood business that could turn around in 12-18 months. He didn't name examples in our interview, but Merck -- which has taken a terrific beating from the investapo over its troubled Vioxx drug -- is a top 10 holding.

Is this fund for you?
Is Corkins the next Peter Lynch? Don't bet on it yet. Corkins needs time to prove himself atop the Janus Fund. And it's not yet clear whether the infamous Janus ego, which helped create problems for the firm years back, has vanished forever.

Nevertheless, I sense nothing but raw determination to succeed from Corkins, who says he has a significant seven-figure investment in the Janus Fund. That, plus a championship-caliber 0.88% expense ratio, could make this a fund worth taking a flyer on.

But I won't blame you if you'd prefer a more established choice. Experienced managers with battle-tested strategies frequently lead the way to big returns. There are more seasoned captains manning winners in the Motley Fool Champion Funds portfolio, including one growth guru who's been on the job for 20 years, and whose fund is up nearly 24% since joining the ranks in January 2005. (It's also one of many long-term winners for advisor Shannon Zimmerman; try the service free for 30 days to learn more.)

And that's this week's profile. See you back here next Thursday, fund nation. Good night.

Think you can't beat the market with funds? Think again! The selections in Shannon Zimmerman's Motley Fool Champion Funds portfolio are up an average of 18%, vs. just 10% for their comparable benchmarks. Ask us for an all-access pass to get an unfettered look at all of Shannon's picks, manager interviews, and model portfolios. Go ahead; it's free for 30 days and there's no obligation to buy.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a regular viewer of The Colbert Report. (Stay the course.) Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all of the stocks in Tim's portfolio by checking his Fool profile. JPMorgan Chase is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection, while Merck was a former pick from that newsletter. Coventry Health Care and Yahoo! are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is always championship caliber.


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