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Bond market star Jeffrey Gundlach to launch mutual funds, going head-to-head with former firm TCW

April 5, 2010 | 12:16 pm

Four months after his ugly split with TCW Group, star L.A. bond fund manager Jeffrey Gundlach on Tuesday will launch his first mutual funds, hoping to lure some of the billions of dollars in retail funds he managed while at TCW.

Gundlach’s firm, DoubleLine Capital, said it would open the DoubleLine Total Return Bond fund and the DoubleLine Emerging Markets Fixed-Income fund after receiving Securities and Exchange Commission clearance Friday.

Gundlach, 50, had been TCW’s chief investment officer until the firm fired him Dec. 4, saying he had threatened to leave the company and take his team with him. On the same day, TCW agreed to buy Metropolitan West Asset Management to take over management of its bond funds.

Within 10 days Gundlach had formed DoubleLine; about 40 of his 65 fixed-income staffers at TCW have since defected to DoubleLine.

Gundlach The two sides now are embroiled in a vicious legal battle. TCW has accused Gundlach of stealing proprietary TCW information to set up DoubleLine, a charge that Gundlach denies.

While at TCW Gundlach earned a reputation as one of the country’s sharpest investors in mortgage-backed securities. The TCW Total Return Bond fund gained 7.7% a year in the 10 years through 2009, beating nearly all of its rivals.

For most of that period, however, the fund remained relatively small. In 2009, amid the public’s unprecedented hunger for bond funds, TCW Total Return Bond's assets ballooned from $2 billion  at the start of the year to more than $12 billion just before Gundlach’s ouster.

After his surprise departure the TCW fund suffered heavy redemptions as many investors yanked their money. The fund’s assets had plunged to $5.5 billion as of March 31.

With the launch of the DoubleLine Total Return Bond fund, Gundlach is aiming to pull in individual investors who fled the TCW fund after he was fired. Like the TCW fund, DoubleLine Total Return will invest primarily in mortgage bonds.

The second new fund, DoubleLine Emerging Markets Fixed-Income fund, will buy debt of emerging-markets countries and their companies. The portfolio will be managed by Luz Padilla, who oversaw a similar fund at TCW before she defected to DoubleLine in December.

DoubleLine plans to sell its funds directly to investors without sales charges via its website, doublelinefunds.com, and through popular mutual fund supermarkets. The minimum investment: $2,000.

Ron Redell, who heads DoubleLine’s fund arm, declined to say how much cash the firm expected to take into the new funds in the near term. But he said that “a lot of individuals and financial advisors have called asking when we’re launching.”

Gundlach late last year said he believed his firm could have $50 billion under management by the end of 2010. So far the firm has attracted about $1.9 billion from institutional investors and wealthy individuals. That is a fraction of the $70 billion that Gundlach oversaw at TCW.

DoubleLine’s assets also are modest compared with the cash that left TCW after Gundlach’s unexpected ouster as investment chief: TCW said it suffered net outflows of about $25 billion in December and January, including the money that was pulled from TCW Total Return Bond fund.

TCW managed about $115 billion at the end of January.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: Jeffrey Gundlach. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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