Rough Seas, Hunger, Thirst--Beats Working
By Roy Furchgott

(MONEY Magazine) – George J. Collins, then CEO of fund company T. Rowe Price, stunned all but his closest confidantes two years ago when he announced that, at the age of 55, he was chucking it all to go sailing. Collins figured this was his last chance to enter the Whitbread, an elite nine-month around-the-world yacht race. "I want to do this before I am too old," he said at the time.

If "yacht racing" conjures up images of teak decks and Chardonnay at sunset, think again. Whitbread boats are stripped racers. To save weight on Collins' boat, 12 crew members ate freeze-dried food from six shared aluminum spoons and eight cups. On the 2 1/2-day Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore leg in April, Collins' desalinization unit quit. Each man was rationed 2 1/2 cups of water a day. Between heat and choppy seas, the crew couldn't sleep. They arrived dehydrated and exhausted.

Despite all that, Collins hasn't missed the office. As CEO, insiders say, he thrived on competition, and the Whitbread offered plenty. Before the race, Collins' boat, the Chessie, was a laughingstock, the only boat that pitted no-names against superstars such as America's Cup winner Dennis Conner. But when the race ended in Southampton, England, on May 24, the Chessie was sixth in a field of 10 and had placed third on four legs. Collins spent about $7 million to race the Whitbread. He could afford it: His stake in T. Rowe Price was worth more than $60 million when he left. (The stock has nearly doubled since.)

Under Collins, T. Rowe Price prospered as the mutual fund industry came of age. Assets hit $100 billion in 1996, up from $16.6 billion when Collins took the helm in 1984. Under his successor, George Roche, assets have reached $174 billion, and the firm has been the top-performing domestic equity fund family, according to Morningstar. Says Collins: "They sure as hell didn't need me."

--Roy Furchgott