John Hancock Funds has replaced the manager of its Special Equities Fund, a $1.5 billion small-capitalization stock portfolio that has performed poorly of late.

The Boston-based company announced last week that Laura J. Allen, a senior vice president at Hancock, has succeeded Michael P. DiCarlo, who had managed the fund since 1988. The change was effective July 2.

Mr. DiCarlo was employed by Hancock until 1996, when he left to form his own investment company, DFS Advisors LLC. He continued to manage the small- cap fund as a subadviser.

Ms. Allen joined Hancock's small-cap investment team in March as an analyst. She previously spent 17 years as an analyst and portfolio manager at Wellington Management Co., also in Boston.

Hancock manages $36 billion in mutual funds, private accounts, variable annuities, and retirement plans for individual and institutional investors.

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