CHICAGO -- Clevelan-based McDonald & Company Securities Inc. announced an agreement in principle yesterday to merge with Cincinnati-based Gradison & Co.

The merger, which the firm expect to complete which in September, would make McDonald Ohio's largest independent securities firm in terms of capital, employees, and registered representatives, according to McDonald President William Summers.

Mr. Summers said the merger with Gradison would give McDonald a strong presence in southern Ohio, where Gradison has been operating since 1925.

"Gradison is a well-respected name and is well connected and involved in its communities," he said. "We feel that with Gradison we'll have an even better story to tell in serving our public finance clients."

A key to that service is the acquisition of Gradison's 55 retail brokers to supplement the 150-member sales force at McDonald, Mr. Summers said. He added that having additional brokers in southern Ohio would "significantly enhance" McDonald's retail distribution capability in terms of municipal bonds, as well as other securities.

Mr. Summers said while Gradison has not been as significant a player in public investment banking as McDonald, he hoped to integrate McDonald's public finance, trading and underwriting activities into Gradison.

According to Securities Data Co./Bond Buyer, Gradison was senior manager on 24 long-term municipal issues totaling $41.3 million in Ohio over the last year and a half. McDonald, during the same period, was senior manager on 57 issued in the state totaling $306 million.

Mr. Summers added that Gradison would retain its name when it becomes a division of McDonald & Co.

The agreement in principle would give Gradison shareholders a combination of McDonald & Co. stock and cash that would have a total value of about $25 million.

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