NEW YORK - Alliance Capital Management L.P. said Tuesday it would buy money manager and research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, Inc. for about $3.5 billion in cash and partnership units.

The combination, which would create a company with $477 billion in assets under management, would be one of the biggest asset management deals to date.

Alliance is publicly traded as units, but is controlled by French financial giant AXA SA. AXA, which owns AXA Financial/Equitable and Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette & Co., is a voracious acquirer both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Sanford C. Bernstein has $82.9 billion in assets, mostly institutional money that is invested in value stocks.Alliance has $394 billion under management.

Mutual fund performance and sales have been very strong over the past few years, led by the firm's top-performing growth and technology oriented funds.

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