Marron-Backed Brokerage to Acquire MetLife Brokerages

Cetera Financial Group Inc., the brokerage backed by private-equity firm Lightyear Capital LLC, agreed to buy two of MetLife Inc.’s broker-dealer affiliates with $25 billion under management.

MetLife agreed to sell Tower Square Securities and Walnut Street Securities, which have about 850 advisers, the New York-based insurer said today in a statement. After the deal is completed, El Segundo, California-based Cetera will have more than $130 billion in client assets, the firm said in a statement. The companies didn’t disclose the price.

Lightyear Capital, founded by former Paine Webber Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Donald Marron, 78, is among firms building brokerage businesses as they seek stable revenues from advising individual investors on their portfolios. The New York-based private-equity firm started Cetera about three years ago when it bought the ING Advisor Network.

“Cetera is a growth company,” CEO Valerie Brown said in a phone interview. “With private-equity backing, at some point there will be a liquidity event, but for now we’re focused on growing the company prudently.”

After building Paine Webber’s money-management business, Marron sold it to Zurich-based UBS AG in 2000 for more than $10 billion. He’s now the chairman of Lightyear Capital and Cetera.

Genworth Deal

Last year, Cetera added about $13 billion in assets when it bought Genworth Financial Investment Services Inc. The firm has been making deals with banks, including Birmingham, Alabama-based Regions Financial Corp., to place its advisers in their branches.

Today’s deal allows MetLife, the largest U.S. life insurer, to focus on its “core distribution relationships, including its affiliated broker-dealer organization,” Eric Steigerwalt, the firm’s executive vice president, said in the statement. The insurer still owns the New England Securities Corp. and MetLife Securities broker-dealers.

MetLife was advised by investment bank Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP and law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, according to the statement.

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