Challenging indeed. Soon after the closing, the environment for the technology stocks that helped make Janus a premiere growth-stock destination turned deadly. A heavy concentration in media, airline and hotel companies took its toll in 2001, when the fund fell 26%. In 2002, severe downturns in beleaguered fund holdings such as Tyco International, Enron and Bank of New York contributed to the fund's 27.6% drop for the year-more precipitous than the 22% plunge for the S&P 500 Index, but about average for Morningstar's large-cap growth category.

Through it all, Janus Fund investors remained surprisingly loyal. Between September 1, 2000, and November 30, 2002, only $6.7 billion of the $33.85 billion in assets the fund lost over the period was attributable to net shareholder outflows, according to Financial Research Corp.

By the end of 2002, Janus Fund had $17 billion in assets. Rollins says that he and other Janus managers advocated for the re-openings to bring new money in for investment. "We saw some companies with great core franchises selling at great prices, and we wanted to take advantage of those buying opportunities," he says. (Janus 2 Fund, launched in December 2000 as an alternative to the closed Janus Fund, is merging with its namesake.)

While the re-openings will provide fresh money for investment and help managers avoid liquidating stocks to meet redemptions, too much of it-an unlikely scenario for now, at least-could lead to the kind of unwieldy asset base that the fund had three years ago. Janus hasn't set a limit on the fund's assets or announced a closing date at this point. Rollins has modest expectations, noting simply that it would "be nice to have a trickle of cash coming into the bathtub, instead of being in a slow liquidation mode."

Aside from creating buying opportunities, the punishing environment does have a couple of silver linings, including the benefit of hindsight. "During the bull market, the rising tide lifted all boats," says Rollins. "It wasn't until the tide went out that we could really separate the winners from the losers."

Though it remains to be seen how those winners may fare, shareholders won't feel any capital gains pain for quite awhile if they do fulfill their promise. "We have about $10 in realized losses for every Janus Fund share," says Rollins. "Based on the recent net asset value of $19 a share, that means the first 50% or so of upside will essentially be tax-free." Not surprisingly, more than a few funds possess the same upside these days.

Another advantage of a smaller asset base, says Rollins, is more flexibility to step out of large-company territory from time to time. "I like to pepper the bottom half of the portfolio with small- and mid-size names. When the fund had $50 billion in assets, I lost that ability. Now, if I can get a $50 million stock allocation from a smaller name, that's .3% to .4% of the portfolio. If that stock doubles or triples over the next few years, it can have a real impact on performance."

The fund remains a large-company offering, however, since it must have at least 75% of its assets in companies with market capitalizations of $8.5 billion or more. It is also big enough to keep its expense ratio at 83 basis points, below most growth funds.

At 21% of assets, holdings in the media and cable industries constitute the largest sector allocation. "The primary reason I love media companies is that they are not capital intensive," he says. "Billboard companies or radio station operators don't require much capital to generate revenues." Companies in those industries include fund holdings Clear Channel Communications and Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. Diversified media giant Viacom, Janus' second-largest holding, owns cable television properties such as MTV and Nickelodeon, as well as the Infinity Radio Group. The company is using its rising free cash flow to buy back stock and build its balance sheet.

Newcomers to the fund include Apollo Group, which operates the University of Phoenix online degree program and owns the College For Financial Planning. The company, which has substantial free cash flow, "offers students a reasonably priced education option while maintaining solid margins." Rollins recently increased the fund's position in Colgate-Palmolive, which has posted solid earnings despite a weak economy. And he has pared, but not eliminated, his stake in Tyco International. As long as the company's valuation is attractive, he says, he is willing to wait for a turnaround.