Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which is liquidating assets in bankruptcy, has agreed to sell its investment management unit to Bain Capital LLC and Hellman & Friedman LLC for $2.15 billion.

The deal includes Lehman's Neuberger Berman mutual fund division, which oversees about $130 billion, as well as part of a private-equity group that invests in leveraged buyouts and real estate, the companies said Monday. It also includes Lehman's $35 billion private-equity business.

Lehman, which filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, has sold its North American investment banking division and European operations.

Private-equity firms were the only bidders in a rushed auction of the unit after Lehman went bust.

They were attracted by a business with $230 billion in customer assets and a steady cash flow that would have fetched more if not sold under duress.

"They're certainly not buying this at the top of the market," said Steven Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business who studies private equity. "It's somewhat of a distressed sale. If you're betting this is the bottom of the cycle, it's an awesome business."

Lehman, which is based in New York, bought Neuberger in 2003. The fund unit oversees $130 billion.

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