Milton Berlinski, Goldman Sachs (GS) Group Inc.’s top adviser to private-equity firms, is leaving after 25 years with the bank to pursue new opportunities.
Berlinski, who joined New York-based Goldman Sachs in 1986 from Merrill Lynch & Co., will step down as global head of the financial sponsors business by the end of the year, he said in an interview yesterday. The 55-year-old banker declined to elaborate on his plans.
Under Berlinski, Goldman Sachs built out the business in part by helping clients complete deals with backing from its own private-equity funds. Goldman Sachs collected more than $700 million in fees from private-equity deals in the nine months through Sept. 30, making the firm second only to JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to research firm Freeman & Co.
“Goldman Sachs started by playing catch-up covering private-equity firms,” said Apollo Global Management LLC co- founder Josh Harris, who got advice from Berlinski this year on his firm’s initial public offering. “Milton found ways to deliver the bank’s strengths to Apollo.”
The firm’s ties to the world’s largest companies have also helped lure buyout firms, allowing them to find opportunities faster, he said.
Goldman Sachs shares have sunk 45 percent this year, with revenue falling for six straight quarters. At least 37 partners have left this year as banks face new regulations and capital requirements that may crimp profit.
Andrea Raphael, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, wasn’t immediately able to comment.
Berlinski began at the bank by advising asset managers in the financial institutions group. In that role, he led Franklin Resources Inc.’s purchase of Templeton, Galbraith & Hansberger Ltd. in 1992, creating the largest publicly traded, independent mutual-fund company in the U.S. at the time.
“There wasn’t much M&A in our business those days,” said Charles Johnson, who led strategy at Franklin at the time of the deal and whose grandfather founded the firm in the 1940s. “He was instrumental in formulating a competitive bid.”
Berlinski’s other notable deals include the sale of Alltel Corp. to Verizon Wireless in 2009, a $5.9 billion transaction that turned the buyer into the largest mobile-phone company in the U.S. Clients this year included Cerberus Capital Management LP, TPG Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.
Goldman Sachs’s Ranking
While Goldman Sachs has slipped from its top spot in fees from buyout firms last year, the bank’s share worldwide has increased to 9.5 percent from 8.4 percent for all of 2010, according to data from Freeman. The fees apply to debt and equity offerings as well as takeover advice.
Berlinski has gained a reputation for doggedness by seizing chances to interact with clients, according to private-equity executives. After procuring an invite to a Colorado trip led by Harris, Berlinski found himself among advanced skiers. Rather than part from the Apollo co-founder, he joined them in an off- piste excursion, shuffling to the rear of the group. He was the last to finish, arriving at the bottom of trail some time later, according to Harris.
“It was a great display of determination,” he said.
Berlinski may apply that enterprise to current business interests as he departs Goldman Sachs. The Aruba native is a majority shareholder in synthetic fabric maker Uretek and owns stakes in three restaurants in his home country. He also plans to open two more in New York.
“His experience running companies gives him discipline, which is unique for a coverage banker because they don’t have to live with the deal,” said Lenard Tessler, managing director at New York-based Cerberus.
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