Miller Buckfire & Co., under pressure to recruit senior-level bankers after the retirement of co-founder Henry Miller and other departures, is in discussions with Jim Millstein, the U.S. Treasury Department’s former chief restructuring officer, said two people familiar with the matter.
The talks are preliminary and may not result in his hiring, said the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private. Millstein, 55, who left the government in March after helping to oversee the bailouts of American International Group Inc. (AIG) and Citigroup Inc., also is considering starting a turnaround firm and has contacted other restructuring bankers about joining him, the people said.
Miller Buckfire Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Buckfire, 52, aims to retain bankers and make high-profile hires after senior managing directors departed and as others have talked about leaving, the people said. The firm, which advised Calpine Corp. on its $17.3 billion restructuring in 2008, said last week that Miller, 65, will resign as chairman after a $40 million investment from Stifel Financial Corp. (SF) announced June 8.
The deal gives Stifel the right to 40 percent of Miller Buckfire’s distributable profits, said one of the people. Miller Buckfire is using the cash infusion and its remaining equity to lure bankers like Millstein or others from his former firm, Hamilton, Bermuda-based Lazard Ltd. (LAZ), the people said.
Chuck Dohrenwend, a Miller Buckfire spokesman, declined to comment on Millstein or the structure of the Stifel deal.
Aide to Geithner
Millstein, held earlier talks with Miller Buckfire that didn’t lead to a deal, and the two held talks again after the Stifel investment, according to one of the people. Millstein was hired by the Treasury Department in 2009 for the newly created position of senior restructuring officer and was a close aide to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.
A bankruptcy attorney, Millstein joined Lazard in 2000 as a managing director in its restructuring group. Previously, he was a lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where he led its restructuring practice. At Lazard, he worked on the restructuring of cable company Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR) and with the United Auto Workers in negotiations with General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC and Delphi Corp.
Miller Buckfire, which faces competition from boutique and mid-sized investment banks such as Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR) and Peter J. Solomon Co., is focusing more on capital markets.
“We are very 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,” Buckfire said in an interview last week. “People come and go from Wall Street firms all the time.”