ZURICH The private banking unit of Credit Suisse Group has agreed to buy Frye-Louis Capital Management Inc., a Chicago fund manager partly owned by heirs of the S.C. Johnson & Son household products fortune.
Frye-Louis has $1.5 billion of assets under management and focuses on clients with at least $30 million to invest.
The price of the deal was not disclosed, but analysts estimated that Credit Suisse, Switzerlands second-largest banking company, would pay as much as $150 million for Frye-Louis.
Credit Suisse is moving to strengthen its private banking operations after second-quarter profit dropped on reduced fees and trading income prompted by declining stock prices. It closed its 120-employee North American private banking unit in 1998, saying it was not big enough to compete.
Im surprised theyre once again interested in the U.S. private banking market, said Christoph Bieri, an analyst at Banca del Gottardo in Switzerland. It doesnt seem to fit with their private banking strategy.
Credit Suisse Private Banking chief executive Oswald Gruebel, who is to retire at yearend, said in April that the unit was interested in making deals in Germany and France. Last year it bought JO Hambro Investment Ltd. in London, which gave it an additional $2.2 billion of wealthy clients assets.
Frye-Louis is owned by Peter R. Frye, its management, and members of the Louis family, who are heirs of the S.C. Johnson fortune. Its management team is to remain after the sale to Credit Suisse.
Based on recent industry transactions, Credit Suisse will probably spend $75 million to $150 million, or between 5% and 10% of assets, for Frye-Louis, Mr. Bieri said.
Claudia Kraaz, a spokeswoman for Credit Suisse Private Banking, declined to comment on the estimate, saying that the companies had agreed not to disclose the purchase price.
Ms. Kraaz said the purchase would not be a departure from Credit Suisse Private Bankings strategy and that Frye-Louis is completely different from the closed North American operation.