With his legal woes behind him, the money man who helped guide the leaders of the high-tech boom has started a boutique investment bank.
SAN FRANCISCO — Five years after walking away from his successful investment banking career to defend himself against criminal charges stemming from the collapse of Internet stocks, Frank Quattrone is returning to the role he most relishes: as a counselor to high-tech companies.
Quattrone cleared his name in August when, in a rare retreat, federal prosecutors dropped the case.
The dismissal paved the way for Quattrone’s return Tuesday, when he opened Qatalyst Group, a boutique investment bank in San Francisco.
“I really missed the opportunity to advise clients I know well and trust, in the industry that I have lived and breathed for the past 25 years,” said Quattrone, 52, who helped steward the companies that powered the tech boom, including Amazon.com, Cisco Systems and Netscape.
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Silicon Valley is expected to receive Qatalyst with open arms. The company already has high-profile backers that include Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell, who said: “I think I speak for Silicon Valley when I say that the valley is a better place with Frank in it.”
One of the first bankers to recognize the valley’s promise when his New York brethren still considered it a backwater, Quattrone became a legend for his industry knowledge and connections, friends say.
“He was the guy who arrived at your office carrying a canvas bag filled with 400 pages of analyst reports and scruffy notes, wearing his baseball cap askew, just off the red eye from New York,” said Dave Roux, co-founder of private-equity company Silver Lake Partners.
“He would go digging through his stuff and would know what all your competitors were doing,” Roux said. “He would come up with just the right thing.”
Quattrone is returning as technology mergers and acquisitions have more than doubled since 2003, to $206 billion in 2007, according to Dealogic. Corporate executives and boards are increasingly seeking seasoned, independent advice.
“It’s great to see him back,” said Marc Andreessen, who cofounded Netscape and is working on social-networking site Ning. “There’s a huge opportunity for his new firm.”
Quattrone, who grew up in Philadelphia, set out to learn the high-tech industry after earning his master’s in business administration from Stanford University. He became known for attracting top talent, moving his team from bank to bank, ultimately landing at Credit Suisse in 1998.
He may have been a big banker but he was never a suit, friends say. He won over people with his rendition of the Beatles song, “Rocky Raccoon.”
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, he oversaw more initial public offerings than any other banker, helping launch the fortunes of Silicon Valley companies and showering his team with riches. In 2000, he earned $120 million.
Supporters say that preternatural success made him the target of a government crackdown that followed the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Prosecutors accused Quattrone of hindering a federal inquiry into how Credit Suisse distributed shares of IPOs.
His first trial ended in a hung jury in 2003. In the second, in 2004, he was convicted of obstructing justice and witness tampering, and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
An appeals court reversed the conviction last year, and prosecutors dropped charges.
Quattrone declined to discuss the past.
“Our attention is properly focused on this new opportunity,” he said.
Will Qatalyst shake up the competitive landscape?
“My guess is that he will get his unfair share” of business, Roux said. “He’s a hustler.”
Material from Bloomberg News was included in this report.