Legg Mason's broker king key piece of deal with Citi

July 15, 2005|By BILL ATKINSON

IN THE MAIN dining room at Shula's on West Fayette Street, over cocktails and a dinner featuring 12-ounce strip steaks and filet mignon, Smith Barney executives gave Marvin H. McIntyre and an elite group of Legg Mason brokers their best sales pitch.

Charlie Johnston, head of Smith Barney's brokerage business, sat next to McIntyre, which was only fitting. McIntyre is the king of Legg Mason brokers, and what he decides to do - strike out on his own, work for another firm or join Smith Barney - will be a key barometer of whether the $3.7 billion deal between Legg and Citigroup succeeds or fails.

Last month, the companies agreed to swap Citi's money management business for Legg's 1,540 brokers who - if all goes according to plan - will work for Citi's Smith Barney unit.

McIntyre is a force to be taken seriously. He has been Legg's top-producing broker for 14 years. His staff of 13 oversees $2.5 billion in assets; his client list includes about 95 professional athletes. Last month, McIntyre was named the sixth-best broker in the country by Barron's.

"They know [McIntyre] is key," said Rich Schwarzkopf, president of Schwarzkopf Recruiting Services in New York City. "They will make him feel special. They will promise him the world, they don't want to lose him. If he says, `I'm staying, I'm happy,' others will stay."

When McIntyre left Shula's the evening of June 27, he wasn't sure what to do.

"I want to have the best platform possible for my clients," said McIntyre, who works in Legg's Washington office. "Our clients are like our extended family. You want to give your family the best. ... "

Smith Barney, as The Sun reported last week, is promising signing bonuses of $1 million and up to keep top brokers like McIntyre. But, for McIntyre it's not about stuffing his bank account.

"If it were about the money, then I would have left a long time ago," he said. "You could get more money by going somewhere else. It is about the best environment, the best opportunity to do what you think is right."

McIntyre, 62, is gregarious, witty and well-connected. His grandfather, also named Marvin H. McIntyre, was city editor at The Washington Post and became secretary to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The younger McIntyre met Chip Mason, Legg's CEO, and Jim Brinkley, the former head of Legg's brokerage division, 37 years ago in Newport News, Va., when he interviewed for a job with the old Mason & Co.

"They were scared to death to hire me because I was single and young," McIntyre said.

But McIntyre distinguished himself from the pack quickly as a conservative investor who lived by two simple rules. No. 1: "Do not lose the money." No. 2: "Do not forget the first rule."

He also had an easy way with clients.

"He really is the type of person you want to be around, you trust," Brinkley said. "When Marvin talks with you, he focuses on you."

Early on, McIntyre saw that it wasn't enough to simply buy and sell stocks for clients. He worked to understand their full financial picture by meeting with clients' lawyers, accountants and financial advisers.

"He did it better than other folks," Brinkley said. "That led him to successful and wealthy people."

One of them was Donald Dell, former tennis star and founder of ProServ Inc., a sports marketing firm in Washington. The two met about 12 years ago, and Dell liked McIntyre so much that he gave him money to manage.

"I just had wonderful results with him," Dell said.

Dell recommended several tennis-superstar clients, including the late Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and Yannick Noah. He also managed money for basketball players including Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan, Dell said.

McIntyre wouldn't comment on his clients other than to say that he and his staff have "been blessed."

Brokers seldom like change, and Legg's financial advisers have relished the firm's intimacy and strong reputation. If the "family" can be kept together, and brokers feel that the culture will be preserved, they'll go to Smith Barney. But they'll need to be convinced.

"Our first choice would be to make this work," McIntyre said. "That is the truth. I need to be sure that my clients are advantaged by this transaction."

Just plain Chip

Chip Mason might be worth hundreds of millions, but he isn't above doing some chores like the rest of us.

The Legg Mason chief - who has made $78 million on paper since the Citi deal was announced - was recently seen pushing a grocery cart through the Graul's store in Ruxton on a weeknight after work. He bought Rao's gourmet spaghetti sauce, Diet Coke (with caffeine), bread and milk, and loaded the stuff himself into his Mercedes.

For someone who runs Baltimore area's most valuable publicly traded company, with a $12.1 billion market cap, Mason has always come off as a pretty regular guy, albeit one now worth $344 million. With that kind of dough, he can buy plenty of groceries - and the store to boot.

Bill Atkinson's column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 410-332-6961 or by e-mail at bill.atkinson@balt sun.com.

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