For Seattle-based Russell, the move marks the end of a long process of being shopped around. One of its new private equity owners says it has “no intention of moving Russell out of Seattle.”
The London Stock Exchange Group has agreed to sell the asset-management arm of Russell Investments to a private equity partnership for $1.15 billion.
The purchasing group is led by TA Associates, a prominent private equity firm based in Boston, and will have a “significant” minority investment from Reverence Capital Partners of New York.
Local employees shouldn’t see too much change.
“We have absolutely no intention of moving Russell out of Seattle,” said Milton Berlinski, Reverence Capital’s managing partner.
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A person familiar with the deal said there would be no layoffs from the acquisition.
Russell has 1,800 employees, many in Seattle but others in offices from London and Milan to Dubai.
For Russell, the deal marks the end of a long process of being shopped around. It comes a few weeks after Bloomberg News reported a tentative deal by a Chinese brokerage firm interested in buying the Seattle business for $1.8 billion had fallen through.
A storied financial firm with deep Northwest roots, Russell Investments was bought by LSE from Northwestern Mutual for $2.7 billion last year.
But LSE, a big provider of financial indexes including the FTSE benchmark, really only wanted Russell Investments’ index business, home of the often-cited Russell 2000 and other broad stock-market measures. The management arm — which as of last June managed $266 billion in assets — was not a good fit.
The business is profitable. In the first six months of 2015, it posted earnings before taxes of $43 million. But it’s been undergoing turmoil, starting with the Great Recession and ending with the latest acquisition.
Two short-lived CEOs passed through the executive suite before current chief Len Brennan took over in 2011. Brennan has been praised by observers for holding on to talent and clients despite the changes.
Bryan Weeks, CEO of Seattle-based investment-management boutique Silver Creek Capital and a former Russell executive, said the acquisition means things are looking up for what remains “one of the finest brands in the industry,” as it ties up with a deep-pocketed owner with expertise in the financial sector and the willingness to invest. It also helps buttress Seattle’s place in the financial-services world, Weeks said.
“I think this next phase is going to be incredible for the Russell team, because there’s closure. They have all the required expertise and now they have a very respected partner and owner in TA Associates.”
The deal is a “positive thing” for Russell and its employees, agreed Kip McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Chief Investment Officer magazine.
“Uncertainty kills any asset-management business,” as it might make potential clients ranging from pension funds to endowments to pick more stable competitors, he said. “I’m assuming the people within Russell right now are very happy that this issue is solved.”
McDaniel says that despite the uncertainty surrounding the firm’s ultimate destiny, he hasn’t observed a mad rush for the door by talented employees. “There’s a lot of credit there to Russell,” he says.
Brennan said in a statement the firm will operate independently, and that its new owners will bring “strong financial backing, new strategic insights and a commitment to help us continue to deliver innovative investment solutions to our global base.”
The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2016.