The bidding for Great Western Financial Corp.'s mutual fund complex is winding down, and four companies have emerged as finalists.

One of the final bidders is Hartford, Conn.-based Phoenix Duff & Phelps, sources close to the negotiations confirmed; a spokeswoman at Phoenix Duff & Phelps declined to comment. The company was formed last November when Duff & Phelps, a credit rating firm, merged with the Phoenix Funds.

The identities of the other finalists could not be determined, but three bidders that were in serious pursuit of Great Western's $3.4 billion fund business appeared to have dropped out of the race in recent days.

The companies, all based in Boston, are: Affiliated Managers, an arm of TA Associates, a venture capital firm; UAM Funds Distributor Inc., an arm of United Asset Management, a federation of money management firms; and Massachusetts Financial Services, a large mutual fund company.

A deal for Great Western's Sierra Capital Management is likely to be reached in early December, according to a source familiar with the proceedings. The company was put on the auction block last month.

Industry investment bankers say the funds are likely to fetch between $50 million and $60 million - at the low end of the price range that sources had initially pegged.

The earlier estimates, which ran as high as $75 million, assumed the buyer would fire the 15 mutual fund subadvisers who manage the Sierra Funds under broad guidelines established by Great Western. But as negotiations have unfolded, it has become unclear whether the subadvisers will stay or go.

These subadvisers - including such high-profile names as J.P. Morgan Investment Management and Scudder Stevens & Clark - share in the investment management fees that Great Western collects for operating the funds. By cutting them out of the picture, a new fund adviser could boost profits fourfold, to about $12 million, industry sources say.

A company spokesman said no decision has been made to eliminate the subadvisers, but declined to comment further.

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