Inside Track: Mairs & Power fund manager Frels retires after 'a great ride'

Mairs & Power portfolio manager Bill Frels, a gentleman of the trade, plans to retire at the end of 2014 at the ripe young age of 75.

In anticipation, veteran Mairs fund managers Mark Henneman and Ron Kaliebe took over this month for Frels as lead managers of the Mairs & Power Growth Fund and Mairs & Power Balanced Fund, respectively. Frels will remain after 2014 as chairman of the firm’s investment committee and a shareholder.

“When I came here [in 1992] the firm’s assets were $275 million and now we’re north of $5 billion,” said Frels. “It’s been a great ride. I have started the Frels Family Foundation and that will gradually increase as I sell my shares in Mairs & Power. It will be the beneficiary of my retirement accounts when I pass away. We’re going to focus on education. I have two sons who are teachers.”

Frels was an investment executive at what is now U.S. Bancorp and the former First American Bank before joining the late George Mairs at the St. Paul investment firm.

Earlier this year, Frels and Henneman were selected by Morningstar as the 2012 domestic stock fund managers of the year. The flagship Mairs &Power Growth Fund, with $3 billion in assets, provided a market-­beating return of 22 percent last year and 8.6 percent annualized over the last decade. Mairs & Powers Growth uses a buy-and-hold strategy on regional stocks they know well.

 

Tietjen on Darrow

Randy Tietjen, a business litigator at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, is getting rave reviews from legal-history buffs for his new book, “In the Clutches of the Law: Clarence Darrow’s Letters,” about the great American lawyer and civil libertarian. Tietjen spent 20-plus years searching for Darrow’s letters, locating about 2,250 of them, including some found in the basement of one of Darrow’s granddaughters. Virtually all were hidden away since Darrow died in 1938.

Bryan Garner, editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, has declared Tietjen’s work the best law-related book of the year. And Edward Larson, the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Scopes trial (“Summer for the Gods’’), said Tietjen’s “remarkable collection will deepen our understanding of a near-legendary figure.”

Tietjen started his quest as a law clerk to a federal judge in Nebraska on a whim, and contacted several of Darrow’s biographers who said they had located only about 100 letters. The newly discovered letters include nearly 500 to and from the likes of Helen Keller, H.L. Mencken, Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst and Sinclair Lewis. Darrow once was dubbed “the lawyer for the damned.”

“I spent hundreds of late nights … poring over his letters, trying to read his awful handwriting … and writing notations so they would be understandable to a reader today,” Tietjen said. “Darrow had a fierce determination to help his clients. He probably spent more than a third of his time throughout his career devoting himself to representing people who couldn’t afford him. And Darrow’s letters show that … he was fascinated with science and the emerging field of psychology. And he loved literature, poetry, history … all of which he used in his famous closing arguments. He was a very clever and witty man and he was a powerful speaker and writer.”

IT’S THE CHARITY GOLF SEASON …

And the folks at the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA) credit businessman Mike Patterson with leading the way for 15 years on the annual MOCA golf tournament, later this month, and much more that has helped the local nonprofit become one of the nation’s top fundraisers for ovarian cancer research and education nationally.

Patterson, 63, founder and CEO of transportation-logistics firm King Solutions of Dayton, Minn., started supporting MOCA efforts when he learned that the wife of a client, a MOCA board member, was battling the disease. She’s still with us.

“Ovarian cancer has not affected my family, but I’ve met many ladies who are survivors and some who have succumbed to this disease,” Patterson said. “I call this a ‘cowardly disease’ because it kind of hides in their body. Our mission is twofold: to research and facilitate an early-detection test. The other is to let women know there is an organization for them. And MOCA has no huge corporate backing. It’s a bunch of individuals like me who are trying to help.”

Patterson, an entrepreneur who started out loading trucks, drives a teal-colored Thunderbird, and wears teal-colored golf shoes and knickers, the color of the organization’s logo, at the Molly Cade Scramble for Ovarian Cancer.

“Mike is a really interesting guy who built his own business and takes a ‘let’s-solve-this’ approach to our business, and his support has been very personal and sustained over the years,” said MOCA Executive Director Kathleen Gavin. “We’ve raised and invested about $4 million for [education and research] over the last 12 years.” The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic are the main grantees. More details: www.mnovarian.org.

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