Lebenthal to Sell Asset Manager, Brokerage Stake to South Street

  • Alexandra Lebenthal to retain majority stake in broker-dealer
  • Former Barclays CEO Diamond is among South Street investors

Lebenthal Holdings LLC agreed to sell its asset-management business and woman-owned broker dealer to South Street Securities Holdings Inc., the brokerage whose investors include former Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond.

South Street purchased a 49 percent ownership interest in Lebenthal & Co., led by CEO Alexandra Lebenthal, and a 100 percent stake in Lebenthal Asset Management, run by her brother James, according to a statement Tuesday from Pi Capital International LLC, which was South Street’s investment bank for the transaction. Terms of the deal, which also include the Lebenthal Family Office, weren’t disclosed.

Alexandra Lebenthal will retain her 51 percent stake in Lebenthal & Co. after the transaction is completed, enabling the firm to keep its woman-owned status. Lebenthal has struggled to keep her business afloat in recent years, having opened and shuttered a municipal-bond operation as underwriting opportunities dwindled and the amount of municipal debt dropped to a multi-year low. In August, she also closed a 3-year-old wealth-advisory unit that never gained traction.

Alexandra and James “held the businesses together” under difficult circumstances in recent years, Jim Tabacchi, South Street’s CEO, said in a telephone interview. “They deserve some kudos for that and I’m looking forward to helping them shift gears” and expand their businesses, he said.

Read more: Jimmy Cayne’s loan to Lebenthal

Lebenthal was founded in 1925 by Alexandra’s grandparents, Louis and Sayra, as an odd-lot clearinghouse. Her father James joined the family business in 1967, and began a series of television ads with taglines like “bonds are my babies” as he tried to popularize municipal bonds for investors.

James retired as president in 1995, handing the reins to Alexandra, who was 31 at the time. Six years later, she sold the business to insurer Mony Group Inc.’s Advest subsidiary for $25 million. Merrill Lynch & Co. bought Advest in 2005, retiring the Lebenthal name. In 2007, Alexandra reached a deal to get the family name back from Merrill and revived her family’s business as Lebenthal Holdings.

“It’s just another chapter in 91 years of a name that’s still here -- and that, at the end of the day, is something I’m really proud of,” Alexandra Lebenthal said in a telephone interview.

Diamond’s Atlas Merchant Capital invested in South Street in June 2015. He said in October of that year that he sees an “incredible entrepreneurial opportunity” to invest in financial companies competing with so-called systemically important banks that are facing increasing scrutiny from regulators. Tabacchi said Tuesday that Diamond has increased his holding to 35 percent since the original investment, making him the firm’s largest stakeholder.

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy was South Street’s legal counsel. Gordian Group served as investment banker to Lebenthal, and Saul Ewing was legal counsel.

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