George Ball's Comeback Or Comedown?

GEORGE BALL IS BACK IN THE stockbroker game. Nothing as exalted as his former gig heading what's now Prudential Securities, mind you. Ball, who insists he has learned from his star-crossed tenures as president of since-merged-out-of-existence E.F. Hutton and CEO of Pru, will help run Investors Financial Group, an Atlanta-based broker-dealer, as a director and consultant.

Ball, 55, has been hired for his skills at firing up brokers--IFG has 500 of them (vs. 6,400 at Pru during his reign). He will scout small brokerage firms for IFG to buy and recruit brokers to add to IFG's stable. Ball is also a partner at Sanders Morris & Mundy, a Houston-based venture-capital firm that has invested $1.5 million in IFG. For a time after he resigned from Pru in 1991, he worked as a senior veep at Smith Barney Shearson.

Ball's new boss, IFG Chairman John Keeble, says he has no qualms about Ball's troubled past. Pru-Bache under Ball (1982-91) racked up huge losses from limited partnerships that went sour amid charges of fraud. Before that at Hutton, there was a massive check-kiting scheme that bilked banks. "I don't know of any malfeasance on his part at Pru, and none at Hutton," says Keeble. Says Ball: "Hopefully, instead of running away, I can use [my past] as an experiential platform to advance the state of the art."

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