Henry Miller is resigning as chairman of Miller Buckfire & Co., the financial adviser that received a $40 million investment from Stifel Financial Corp. (SF) last week. Managing director Ronen Bojmel is leaving the firm, a person familiar with the situation said.
The loss of Bojmel, who led the restructuring of mall operator General Growth Properties Inc. (GGP), follows the defection of managing director Sam Greene, who is joining Centerview Partners LLP to help start a restructuring practice, another person said. The people asked not to be named because the moves aren’t public. Miller, who stepped down as chief executive officer of the New York-based company in 2009, will be a senior adviser at both Stifel and Miller Buckfire.
“This is part of my transition and retirement planning that was built into the company’s formation in 2002,” Miller, 65, said today in an interview. “We’re very confident that what we have in place is a solid business, a great brand and talented people.”
Miller Buckfire advised Calpine Corp. on its $17.3 billion restructuring in 2008 and Kmart Corp. on its $8.5 billion restructuring in 2003. The firm faces increasing competition as boutique and mid-sized investment banks expand. Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR) and Peter J. Solomon Co. have each hired former Miller Buckfire managing directors since last year.
“Henry Miller is up there with the restructuring greats,” said James Shein, a professor at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management who teaches management turnarounds. “It’s very surprising to see such a significant resignation right after a major investment, especially in a service industry like restructuring.”
CEO Kenneth Buckfire said in an interview that Miller’s move has been “long-planned” and that bankers’ departures are a normal practice on Wall Street.
“The level of traditional restructuring assignments has really receded over the past year as functioning capital markets and low rates gave many companies other options,” said Devin Ryan, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP. “A number of independent investment advisers significantly expanded their restructuring platforms in preparation for the upcoming cycle.”
Miller Buckfire recognized that it needed to tap new expertise, Buckfire said.
“We are aggressively going to be recruiting senior bankers to help reposition for the strategy we’ve now embarked on, which is far more focused in capital markets,” he said. “Bringing capital markets solutions to companies to repair their balance sheets is an extremely important skill.”
Stifel, which invested in Miller Buckfire to gain access to its restructuring capabilities, may look to acquire the whole firm, Stifel CEO Ronald Kruszewski said last week. Sarah Anderson, a spokeswoman for Stifel, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Miller “helped us agree to a strategic alliance with Stifel Financial that enhances our capital base and enables us to recruit and retain the best restructuring bankers,” Chuck Dohrenwend, a spokesman for Miller Buckfire, said in an e-mail. “We look forward to his ongoing contributions to the continued success of our firm” in his role as an adviser, Dohrenwend said. He declined to comment on other employees’ plans.
Bojmel, 43, who may announce his departure next week, is weighing a move to a distressed-investments firm or another restructuring advisory, the person familiar with his plans said. His departure follows Evercore’s hiring of Lloyd Sprung in April, who will advise on debt capital markets and corporate restructurings, and Durc Savini’s move to Peter J. Solomon last year.
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