U.S. Trust Corp. has agreed to buy out the individual investment account business of a prominent New York money manager.

The New York banking company will pay up to $20 million cash to acquire all of the investment accounts for wealthy individuals and families now managed by J.& W. Seligman & Co. The deal, for accounts with $900 million of assets, is expected to close in April.

U.S. Trust, one of the country's largest trust banks, gains from the deal by adding clients and professional staff to one of its key business lines, said John C. Hover, the institution's executive vice president for personal asset management and private banking.

"It's just a perfect, natural fit with the business we already have," he said.

Mr. Hover said the accounts U.S. Trust is acquiring are midsize for the bank, ranging from $2 million to $20 million. Some of the customers already use banking services from U.S. Trust. But the company will try to sell them more services, he added.

U.S. Trust now manages $32 billion of assets, primarily in personal investment accounts for affluent families and individuals.

As part of the deal, U.S. Trust will also buy Seligman's trust bank. This means Seligman will no longer be trustee for the 6,000 individual retirement accounts and 1,500 retirement plans it now handles, a Seligman spokeswoman said.

She added that the company plans to select a new trustee by the time the sale closes.

As part of the deal, four portfolio managers, an expert in trusts, and an expert in estate taxes will transfer to U.S. Trust, along with their administrative staff, Mr. Hover said.

The new staff will join the 50 portfolio managers U.S. Trust now employs in New York.

Though small by the standards of big trust banks, the deal can be seen as "part of a larger trend in which more and more insurance companies, brokerage firms, and banks are looking to buy customer relationships," said David Ross Palmer, a trust and private banking consultant in New York.

Financial companies are looking to buy relationships "because earning them is hard," Mr. Palmer added.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Trust chairman H. Marshall Schwarz said the deal would have "minimal effect" on U.S. Trust's 1995 net income.

The sale leaves Seligman managing $6.5 billion of open and closed-end mutual funds and $3.5 billion of institutional accounts.

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