In the latest affirmation that big egos are still a force on Wall Street, six investment banks are jostling for credit as lead adviser in a big thrift acquisition earlier this year.

Salomon Brothers Inc., Smith Barney, Lazard Freres & Co., Goldman Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan & Co. and Hovde Financial Inc. all have claimed credit for the $1.1 billion acquisition of First. Nationwide FSB by MacAndrews & Forbes Inc. -- the biggest thrift sale ever. What's more, each has received credit for the deal in one published ranking or another.

By definition only two firms deserve credit. The scramble for public acknowledgement in this. deal illustrates just how competitive investment banks have become as they vie for the image of dealmaker on the eve of interstate banking.

The situation also underscores the quandary facing data firms, which rely on information from investment banks to compile credible rankings.

For one thing, the distinction between capital-raising and financial advisory services is often blurred, so credit that belongs in underwriting tables appears in mergers and acquisitions rankings instead, one investment banker said.

Securities Data Co. credited Salomon Brothers and Smith Barney for advising MacAndrews & Forbes -- run by investor Ronald O. Perelman-- and Gerald J. Ford, a Dallas investor and bank manager, in their purchase of the thrift.

Salomon, Smith Barney, and other firms were hired to raise capital by Mr. Ford, but their efforts were dropped after Mr. Perelman decided he wanted a large equity stake. This essentially left Salomon out in the cold, one source said.

An investment banker close to the deal laughed when asked if Salomon or Smith Barney should get advisory credit, though Salomon insists it should. There is a difference between capital and financial advisory services, he said, and in the end Salomon did not even raise the capital.

"I would be surprised if at the end of the year Salomon Brothers prints the deal in their advertisement of annual deals," he said.

SNL Securities attributed the deal to neither of these firms, but to Lazard Freres -- although in an earlier table SNL attributed the deal to Salomon.

Lazard's general partner and director of its financial institutions group, Kendrick R. Wilson, is close to both Mr. Perelman and Mr. Ford, who bought the thrift through First Madison Bank FSB.

As if three were not already a crowd, a fourth investment bank, Hovde in Washington, D.C., an adviser to community banks, also wants credit for MacAndrews.

Hovde assisted Household Financial in its purchase of First Nationwide's Illinois branches.

Because the thrift transaction could not have happened without the branch sale, Hovde should receive credit, the firm's president Eric D. Hovde argued.

"That is ridiculous," said an investment banker close to the deal. The branch sale, which was not integral to the transaction, came after the thrift deal, this banker said.

While receiving credit from neither SNL or SDC, Mr. Hovde does include it in his own list of deals.

And Hovde was credited with the $1.1 billion in a ranking of smaller M&A firms published in American Banker.

On the other side of the coin, SDC credits Goldman Sachs for advising Ford Motor Co. But SNL credits J.P. Morgan. Morgan said it was the lead and Goldman the secondary adviser to Ford.

Other sources were split on this question. One insisted Goldman played the lead role, while another investment banker said Morgan's role was central.


6 investment banks claim credit as leading adviser in MacAndrews & Forbes-First Nationwide deal

Goldman Sach & Co.

Advised Ford Motor Co.

J.P. Morgan

Advised First Nationwide

Smith Barney

Assisted in financing

Salomon Brothers

Advised MacAndrews

Lazard Freres

Advised Ron Perelman, Gerald Ford

Hovde Financial

Facilitated branch transaction

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