Better Than Bill? Say It Ain't So!
By Jon Birger

(MONEY Magazine) – Has too much been made of mutual fund manager Bill Miller's famous 13-year winning streak at Legg Mason Value Trust? The celebrated Miller runs the only fund that's beaten Standard & Poor's 500-stock index every year since 1991. But according to data compiled by Morningstar at MONEY's request, the only 12-month period for which Miller has consistently beaten the S&P is January through December. In other words, if the calendar year ended in March, April or any month other than December, there'd be no streak. (Example: Miller has actually trailed the S&P four times since 1991 during the 12-month periods from March through February.)

We tell you all this not to disparage Value Trust--it remains one of our faves--but rather to expose the high degree of serendipity that's embedded in Miller's claim to fame. It's a point that Miller readily concedes. "Streaks of any type tend to involve a certain degree of luck as well as skill," he says.

More impressive than the streak is Miller's 17.7% average annualized return since 1991, which is nearly six percentage points better than S&P's. However, his total returns aren't quite as marketable as the streak itself.

Here are 12 fund managers who've done as well or better:

Bob Rodriguez, FPA Capital, 20.9% annualized

Bill Nasgovitz, Heartland Value, 20.2%

James Schmidt, John Hancock Regional Bank, 20%

Ed Owens, Vanguard Health Care, 19.5%

Joel Tillinghast, Fidelity Low-Priced Stock, 19.4%

John Calamos, Calamos Growth, 19.1%

Samuel Isaly, Eaton Vance Worldwide Health Sciences, 18.5%

Robert McDorman Jr., ICM Small Company, 18.4%

Paul Wick, Seligman Communications & Information, 18.3%

Charles McQuaid, Columbia Acorn, 18.1%

O. Mason Hawkins, Longleaf Partners, 17.9%

Robert Perkins, Janus Small Cap Value, 17.7% --JON BIRGER