With prices for asset managers at an all-time high, prospective buyers have become pickier than ever about available properties. At a seminar Monday in New York, a panel of investment bankers offered tips on finding and wooing partners.
Investment companies with $20 billion to $50 billion, once a "sweet spot" for buyers, have become hard to find, said Milton R. Berlinski, a managing director of Goldman, Sachs & Co. But less obvious targets are still out there, he told the seminar sponsored by Glasser LegalWorks and Bowne & Co.
Steven J. Niemczyk, a managing director of Lazard Freres & Co., said prospective buyers should not hesitate to put out feelers. "It helps to be opportunistic in looking at situations coming your way and also to be proactive about situations that are not on the market."
Panelists said one decision buyers should make early is whether to pursue a company with superstar managers or one with a range of investment styles and broad distribution. But they differed over how to sort through the question.
Big, diversified buyers do not need stars, because they are typically aiming to "reduce dependence on any person or product," said Mr. Niemczyk. But smaller buyers can focus on the star system as a way of getting instant recognition, he said.
Yet Roberto de Guardiola of the advisory boutique Putnam, Lovell, de Guardiola & Thornton urged buyers looking to get started to acquire "broad- based" firms and said companies already in the business can afford the risk of paying for a star manager. "If I'm an established player, I'd to like buy a one-shot," he said.