Like the breakup of a great ball team, the former Bankers Trust Corp. syndicated lending group is being dismantled. And competitors such as Chase Manhattan Corp., Goldman, Sachs & Co. and J.P. Morgan & Co. are hiring away its stars.

Robert Wagner is the most recent defector. He left the combined Deutsche Bank-Bankers Trust this month to join Goldman Sachs as a managing director. He will report to Edward C. Forst, Goldman's co-head of global bank loans. Mr. Forst, a former colleague of Mr. Wagner's at Bankers Trust, left in 1994 to join Goldman.

Mr. Wagner was considered the No. 2 loan executive at Bankers Trust behind Kevin F. Sullivan. He is at least the sixth loan executive to leave since Deutsche Bank AG bought Bankers Trust in June, and the highest ranking so far. Many waited to leave until after they received bonuses on June 4, the day the deal closed.

Once they had their money, however, the floodgates opened. Peter J. Nolan, a managing director in loan syndications in New York, left for Chase. J.P Morgan lured away Ian McCarthy, the head of leveraged loan syndications in London, along with three other loan executives.

In addition, the former Bankers Trust's six-member credit committee was dealt a blow when Joseph Manganello, the company's chief credit officer, retired this month after 30 years.

"It's the end of an era," said a competitor, who would speak only on condition that he not be identified. "I wouldn't be surprised to see them drop into the lower ranks of the league tables in six months."

If Deutsche Bank's U.S. syndicated lending operation were to suffer such a decline, it would be the result of mismanaging one of Bankers Trust's strongest and most profitable businesses. Bankers Trust was the sixth-largest manager of syndicated loans in 1998, with 109 deals worth $42.7 billion, according to Securities Data Co.

In the realm of leveraged syndicated loans the most profitable for underwriters -- the Bankers Trust unit was even stronger. It ranked third, after first-place Chase and second-place BankAmerica Corp., with a market share of 6% in the first half of 1999.

In recent weeks Deutsche Bank seemed to be nurturing its steady deal flow. For example, its European team won a mandate to lead a $3.7 billion bridge loan to back a cash bid by Linde AG, of Germany for ABA AB, a Swedish gas company.

But the loss of key personnel casts doubt about whether Deutsche Bank can retain value from the former Bankers Trust unit. Mr. Sullivan, the syndicated lending group leader, could not be reached for comment, but in an interview last month he said the group would be largely unaffected by the ownership change. "We're not shifting away from any clients," he said.

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