Once a legend, then a pariah, Bill Miller is staging one of Wall Street's most closely watched comebacks

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 06:36:36 AM. For more than 30 years, giving your money to Bill Miller at Legg Mason was one of the most reliable ways to turn a profit. He beat the returns on the benchmark

For more than 30 years, giving your money to Bill Miller at Legg Mason was one of the most reliable ways to turn a profit. He beat the returns on the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500-stock index for 15 years running, a feat unmatched among the legends of Wall Street.

And his fall from grace was nearly as spectacular.

During the global financial crisis of 2007-08, the famed stock picker's bets turned bad, and once-loyal clients took their billions and left. And soon enough, he left the Baltimore investment house that had flourished on his good fortune.

"I regret I didn't retire in 2006," Miller joked. "Then I would have had this extraordinary record nobody else ever had. They would have thought I was a genius. By 2009, I was like an idiot."

By 2019 or 2029? Well, Miller's working on a record. From a mostly sparse office in Baltimore, he's staging one of Wall Street's most closely watched comebacks. And he has returned to the game with an unusual playbook.

He's running two mutual funds - just as stock pickers are losing favor and investors are flocking to index funds.

And he has launched a hedge fund - just as the industry is retracting.

The biggest hurdle, of course, is what is seen as the future of investing: a dramatic turn toward complex computer algorithms and artificial intelligence - and away from the human touch, the instincts and the judgment honed over decades that once put Miller at the top of the heap.

With fewer than 20 employees, Miller Value Partners is a small fraction of what Miller once ruled at Legg Mason, but he beams with pride as he shows a visitor the view of Baltimore's skyline from one window.

After spending decades trading under the flag - and restrictions - of Legg Mason, he is on his own. His two mutual funds, the Miller Opportunity Trust and Miller Income Fund, have about $1.7 billion in assets - modest, compared with the more than $70 billion he managed in his heyday at Legg Mason.

"I'm taking a lot of risk here by doing these things that could go over a cliff," he said, noting that critics could soon declare that he had "lost it" and was "too old."

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