New CEO named for Adams Express and Petroleum & Resources funds

Mark E. Stoeckle has been named CEO of Baltimore-based Adams Express Co. and Petroleum & Resources Corp., replacing Douglas G. Ober, who last year announced his intention to retire.

Stoeckle, 56, has been the chief investment officer of the U.S. Equities and Global Sector Funds for BNP Paribas Investment Partners, a Boston investment management firm.


"With his outstanding record of achievement, he has the leadership ability and experience that are ideally suited to lead our portfolio management team and the companies," said Daniel E. Emerson, the lead independent director for the two companies, in a statement. "His having managed U.S. and global assets with a strong focus on risk management will help to build on our exceptional 83-year history of returns to our shareholders and to enhance the funds going forward."

Adams Express and Petroleum & Resources are closed-end stock funds that were launched in 1929. Each is its own corporation based in downtown Baltimore, although they share the same boards, portfolio management team and administrative staff. Combined, they had nearly $1.9 billion in assets at the end of 2012.


Ober, 66, joined Adams Express in 1980 as a research analyst covering the technology sector. He became CEO and chairman of both companies in 1991. Ober will remain chairman through the funds' annual meetings March 19.

A new chairman will be chosen from among the eight board members who are not executives with the fund companies, said Lawrence Hooper Jr., vice president and general counsel.

With closed-end funds, shares are bought and sold by investors on exchanges like a stock. The shares can be sold at a premium or a discount to the value of the investments in the fund.

The new CEO's challenge will be to close or reduce the discount at which the Adam Express shares have been trading, said Alexander Reiss, a director with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. who covers closed-end funds, including Adams Express.

Granted, funds of all types these days have suffered from redemptions, Reiss said. But Adams Express shares have traded at a larger than average discount, even in 2005 and 2006 when the equity markets and investor confidence were strong, Reiss said.

Still, Stifel gives Adams Express a "buy" rating for the stock, which rose 2 cents to close at $11.31 on Monday.

"It's a good fund," Reiss said. "It's investments are very much in line with what a big-cap equity investor would be looking to buy. And their challenge is obviously to keep picking stocks that work."

Shares of Petroleum & Resources, which invests in energy and natural resources stocks, rose a nickel to close at $26.23 each.

Stoeckle plans to take the reins as CEO on Feb. 11.

A Pittsburgh native, Stoeckle earned an undergraduate degree in English from Bethany College in West Virginia and later received an MBA in finance from Babson College in Boston.

Stoeckle spent most of his career in Boston, working in commercial banking, corporate finance and investment banking for several firms. He also was a portfolio manager with MFS Institutional Advisors and Liberty Financial Corp. In 2000, he co-founded a hedge fund. Four years later, he joined what is now BNP Paribas.

Stoeckle said he hadn't heard of the Baltimore companies before being approached by an executive recruiter. But he said he was attracted by the opportunity to "have a lot of impact on two companies that have a very, very long and good history … and to work with the investment team to continue to produce good investment returns."


Adams Express traces its roots to a delivery company founded in 1854 and transitioned to a closed-end investment fund in October 1929, the same month as the stock market crash that presaged the Great Depression.

Stoeckle agreed that his challenge will be to determine why both funds' shares are selling at discounts higher than what they should be given their portfolios.

Ober, who assisted in the search for his successor, said the companies were looking for someone with strong investment management experience and "someone who could work on improving the performance of the funds."

Petroleum & Resources has outperformed its benchmark, but Adams Express has lagged behind for the past couple of years, Ober said.

Stoeckle will be a change for the companies' 21 employees, who have had the same CEO for more than 20 years. He said employees might be apprehensive about an outsider from Boston but added that he wants to build on the funds' performance with the people now at the companies.

Ober, who will be moving to Jackson Hole, Wyo., said Stoeckle will bring a fresh perspective and "has some ideas that are different from what we have been using."

"I'm leaving it in good hands," Ober said. "We have a great team there and Mark Stoeckle is a great addition."

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