Better Know a Stock Picker

Welcome, Fools, to part 19 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?

Wintergreen (WGRNX)

Expense ratio

1.95%

Fund size

$444 million in assets

1-year return

11.65%

5-year return

N/A

10-year return

N/A

Source: Morningstar, Wintergreen Fund

Top 10 holdings

Company

% of Assets

Consolidated-Tomoka Land (AMEX: CTO  )

7.9%

Japan Tobacco

7.5%

Jardine Matheson Holdings

5.3%

Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY  )

3.9%

Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI  )

3.9%

Imperial Tobacco Group

3.8%

HSBC Holdings (NYSE: HBC  )

3.7%

Henkel

2.9%

Anglo American

2.7%

Swatch Group

2.6%

Source: SEC filings

Meet David Winters
The fightin' team at the Wintergreen Fund is led by David Winters, who launched the fund in October, after nearly 20 years of working as a fund manager under activist investor Michael Price.

Price's track record is legendary, but Winters stands tall as well: A $10,000 investment in Mutual Discovery grew to $16,111 under his watch. Over the same period, the average fund in Discovery's category declined to $9,658. Eat that, Wall Street.

Big returns come by nature for Winters, whose ability to stick it to the stockinistas is as much about observation as it is the numbers. For example, shortly after graduating from Cornell, Winters indulged his passion for travel by train with a trip along the Canadian railways, during which time he discovered a little-known and underappreciated operator called the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. A call to the market maker got him the five shares he wished to buy. But it also caught the attention of Price, reports BusinessWeek.

Over the next two decades he'd prove capable of investing in almost anything. And, when the initial thesis needed a nudge, he'd provide it. Take publisher Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP  ) . BusinessWeekreports that, in 2001, Winters bought up 5% of the stock as he pushed management to make sweeping changes. When they did, the shares zoomed up 67%.

How he invests
Winters is no less of an outspoken maverick today. And his value investing process is global in scope; he'll put money anywhere he spots a bargain. Winters' biggest investments, however, have been reserved for asset plays or prospective turnarounds.

Consider land developer Consolidated-Tomoka, whose stock price has bounced around like a rubber ball this year. Winters singled out the firm in his most recent letter to shareholders because of what he considers to be bright long-term prospects. His thesis certainly makes sense: Rapid population growth in Florida should lead to higher values for the firm's Daytona Beach holdings.

But the New Jersey-based Winters, who has included old-economy American stalwarts such as Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRKa  ) (NYSE: BRKb  ) , Ryland Group (NYSE: RYL  ) , and Allegheny Energy (NYSE: AYE  ) among Wintergreen's holdings, isn't afraid to look far afield for bargains. Hong Kong, where 12.1% of the fund's assets were invested as of the end of June, is a prime target. And Japan and the United Kingdom together account for more than 15% of Wintergreen's investments.

Is this fund for you?
So, does Winters' style put him in the running to be the next Peter Lynch? He's certainly got the smarts, as well as a stellar track record for zigging as others are zagging. Plus, his willingness to make big overseas bets is reminiscent of Lynch's big purchases of Volvo and other foreign shares in the '80s for Fidelity Magellan.

There's just one problem: You'll pay a small fortune to invest in Wintergreen, which charges 1.95% of assets annually. Many cheaper, though still excellent, options exist in the Champion Funds portfolio. One such fund, a global equity fund, has beaten its benchmark by more than 5% since being named a Champ a year ago, but it charges just 1.29% in fees. (It is also one of many 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 week, 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 20% vs. just 13% 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 owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Get the skinny on all of the stocks in Tim's portfolio by checking his Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is always championship-caliber.


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