Sandler O’Neill Founder Steps Aside, Joins Ranieri as Chairman

Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP’s Thomas O’Neill, co-founder of the investment bank focused on the financial-services industry, announced today that he’s stepping down.

O’Neill, 64, is leaving the firm he helped establish in 1988 to become chairman of Ranieri Partners Financial Services Group, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg News. He’ll be joining Lewis Ranieri, who is credited with pioneering the mortgage-backed securities market.

“It has been a wonderful experience working with all of you these past 22 years,” O’Neill wrote in the memo, sent to the firm’s employees. “I couldn’t be prouder of the firm’s success.”

O’Neill started the investment bank with Herman Sandler to focus exclusively on financial companies. The New York-based firm employs about 300 people in businesses that include investment advisory, sales and trading and mortgage financing, according to its website. The retirement was reported earlier by the New York Times Dealbook blog.

In November, the closely held company said private-equity firms Kelso & Co. and Carlyle Group agreed to make a “substantial” minority investment. Terms weren’t disclosed. The firm will retain its current management, led by James J. Dunne and Jonathan Doyle, according to a statement announcing the deal. Existing partners agreed to multiyear non-compete clauses.

“We wish Tom O’Neill all the best and much success as he embarks on his new opportunity,” the firm’s executive committee said in a second memo. “Tom has been a critical part of our success over the past 22 years.”

Sandler O’Neill is the top adviser to banking mergers this year by volume, with 21 deals worth $1.8 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s 18th based on deal size, for a market share of 3.2 percent, the data show.

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