Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. said yesterday that it is beefing up its corporate finance business by hiring 11 professionals from a Philadelphia firm that caters to small and medium-sized companies.
The Baltimore-based securities company said it has hired the corporate finance staff of Middle Market Group L.P., which has focused primarily on companies with annual sales of $15 million to $200 million.
Legg Mason said its new staff members specialize in mergers and acquisitions and the private placement of securities. Five of them were named managing directors of Legg Mason.
The move was not a complete surprise, since Legg Mason has been saying that it planned to increase its retail brokerage force. It had not, however, indicated plans to boost its presence in corporate finance.
Industry experts have said that most of the industry's near-term growth would revolve around the brokerage and underwriting businesses rather than around mergers and acquisitions.
"I'd define the move as more strategic than tactical," said Richard J. Himelfarb, executive vice president of Legg Mason. "The decision to add these folks isn't driven by a sense of what the market is today, but what our strategic goals are." He characterized the merger business as "alive and well," though less heated than it was during much of the 1980s.
He added that the new employees, who bring Legg Mason's corporate finance staff to 27 professionals, are also experienced in helping midsized companies place debt offerings in the private institutional market. The group will continue to serve midsized to moderately large companies, he said.
Arnold S. Hoffman, formerly of the Middle Market Group, will manage Legg Mason's corporate finance operations in Philadelphia. The New York operations will be managed by Graham Humes, managing director of Legg Mason.