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Stealthy Stock Picker

Despite the silly shtick, Oxford Club has delivered good gains.

If "Oxford Club" rings a bell, it's probably because you've seen the outlandish ads that tout Oxford's ability to identify stocks that can triple within a year. Further investigation reveals the club's inane marketing gimmick: Join a secretive society that lets you rub elbows with elite investors and trade hot stock tips -- sort of like Skull & Bones meets the Warren Buffett fan club.

But look past the hype. The club's semi-monthly newsletter, the Communiqué, has performed impressively. On average, its portfolios gained 16% annualized over the past five years to January 3, according to the Hulbert Financial Digest. That beat Standard & Poor's 500-stock index by an average of ten percentage points a year.

Before 2001, Communiqué's results were mediocre. The performance improvement coincided with the installation of Alexander Green as editor in 2001. Green chooses some stocks and funds himself, and he relies on relatively unknown outsiders to select others. Green looks for innovative companies with strong competitive positions and stocks exhibiting good momentum. One recent pick: Corporate Executive Board (symbol EXBD), which offers management-consulting services.

Membership in the Oxford Club, which claims 65,000 members, costs $49 to $79 a year. For that price, you get the newsletter and invitations to "chapter meetings" and seminars, many of which are overseas (recent locations included China, France and New Zealand). Alas, you'll have to make a ton of money on Communiqué's picks to pay for those exotic trips.