Oppenheimer & Co. is said to be close to selling out to CIBC Wood Gundy Securities Corp.

Wall Street sources said Friday that lawyers for Toronto-based CIBC met with Oppenheimer last week and that a deal worth about $400 million could be announced soon.

Oppenheimer chairman and chief executive Stephen Roberts said his firm does not comment on rumors. The firm's investment banker, Goldman, Sachs & Co., did not return phone calls.

A spokesman for CIBC Wood Gundy, a unit of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said she was not aware of any imminent deal.

Oppenheimer's partners, which took control of the brokerage in 1985 via a leveraged buyout costing $150 million, want to sell by September.

After that point, they lose certain tax benefits related to the buyout, an investment banker said.

Oppenheimer was the 20th-largest equity underwriter in 1996, according to Securities Data Co.

PNC Bank Corp. reportedly explored buying Oppenheimer this year, but the talks failed. CIBC has been looking at Oppenheimer off and on for two years, sources said, and negotiations picked up after Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corp. explored a deal but passed on acquiring Oppenheimer because the price was too high.

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