Eaton Vance Corp.’s deal to buy a majority stake in the separate-account manager Fox Asset Management Inc. is likely to be the first of several such deals by the Boston fund company, its chairman and chief executive officer said Monday.

James B. Hawkes said that Eaton Vance wants to buy more money managers in order to diversify its offerings of separately managed accounts. Specifically, it is looking for managers that specialize in growth and international equity to complement both Fox’s equity value style and Eaton Vance’s expertise in fixed-income investing, he said.

“We are looking for a few good men, in Marine parlance,” Mr. Hawkes said.

Eaton Vance announced Thursday that it would buy an 80% stake in Fox. The price: $32 million in cash and stock this year plus a total of as much as $30 million in 2005 and 2006, depending on Fox’s financial performance.

The deal is expected to close by Oct. 31. Fox, of Little Silver, N.J., would continue to operate under its own name, an Eaton Vance spokeswoman said.

Fox manages $2 billion of separate-account assets for pension funds, endowments, foundations, and high-net-worth individuals and families. The deal would boost Eaton Vance’s separate-account assets under management to $5 billion, Mr. Hawkes said. Eaton Vance also manages $45 billion of mutual fund assets, he said.

By diversifying its product offerings the company can adapt to the changing needs of investors, Mr. Hawkes said. However, he said he is not aiming for a particular balance between separate accounts and mutual funds.

Alexander Paris, the director of research at Barrington Research in Chicago, said that the deal did not surprise him. Eaton Vance first signaled that it wanted to build its separate-account business in October, when it hired Lawrence Sinsimer, a separate-account executive from PaineWebber Inc., to be its senior vice president and managing director of managed accounts, he said.

The deal will help Eaton Vance diversify as well as boost its separate-account assets, Mr. Paris said. The performance of Fox’s portfolios should help attract new investors to Eaton Vance, he said.

According to Fox’s Web site, its large-cap portfolios returned 16% in the last four quarters, and an average of 16.79% each year since 1986, versus the Standard & Poor’s 500’s average annual return of 14.91% in the same time period.

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