CIBC Oppenheimer, the U.S. securities subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, has hired a team of four mergers and acquisitions advisers from Salomon Smith Barney.

Conrad L. Bringsjord joined the bank Monday as a managing director and head of M&A in the United States. He will report to Paul Rogers, the head of U.S. investment banking.

Mr. Bringsjord, who began his career in Morgan Stanley & Co.'s M&A department, was the co-head of M&A at Smith Barney before its acquisition of Salomon Brothers last year. Since then, he has led the financial buyer and health-care M&A groups there.

Mr. Bringsjord said he left Salomon Smith Barney to lead CIBC Oppenheimer's first dedicated M&A group because he relished the challenge of building his own team.

"I really liked the concept of a smaller franchise," Mr. Bringsjord said. "I like being able to manage a group of people that can take ownership for its successes all the way down to the junior level."

"While I certainly hope the group is successful, I hope its success doesn't mean it becomes so big that it gets too bureaucratic," he said.

Following Mr. Bringsjord to CIBC were Bruce McCarthy and Michael Barr, who joined the bank as managing directors. Both were directors in Salomon Smith Barney's M&A group, focusing on consumer products and technology, respectively.

John Capano joined the bank as an associate. He held a comparable position at Salomon Smith Barney.

Mr. Bringsjord said he brought deals in progress with him to his new employer. A transaction he was working on for the buyout shop Hicks Muse Tate & Furst at Salomon Smith Barney will now be split between the two firms, he said.

Mr. Bringsjord said CIBC Oppenheimer's platform today is similar to Smith Barney's at the time he joined that firm five years ago.

"I think we are farther along here than Smith Barney was in 1993," he said. "We have a similar retail strength, but Smith Barney had no high- yield capability or leveraged lending capability."

Because of its affiliation with a large Canadian bank, Oppenheimer has access to the leveraged lending market. CIBC also competes in the U.S. junk bond market and bought Argosy Group, a high-yield boutique, several years ago.

The new CIBC group includes five other professionals - a managing director, an executive director, an associate, and two analysts-who were transferred from other groups at the bank.

Mr. Bringsjord said he expects this year to hire about five to 10 more people, probably from bulge-bracket firms, "to add credibility" to the new group, he said.

Until now, CIBC Oppenheimer's advisory work was all handled by the firm's 14 industry specialty groups.

"I expect this to be a matrix-type of organization that will focus on a couple of industries," he said. "Certainly we will take advantage of the leveraged finance capabilities at CIBC to work with LBO buyers."

He said he also thought the firm's affiliation with the Toronto bank would lead to opportunities to do cross-border deals.

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