Legg Ceo Says Peltz Committed To Firm

Investor Doesn't Want To Break Up Units, Fetting Says

November 12, 2009|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Hanah.cho@baltsun.com

Legg Mason Chief Executive Officer Mark R. Fetting said Wednesday that activist investor and new board member Nelson Peltz is not interested in breaking up the Baltimore company's numerous money management units.

"There is no interest in that at all," Fetting told investors at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch banking and financial services conference. "There is a commitment to the multi-manager model."

Peltz - who is known as an agitator who targets companies with good brands and assets that are underperforming - joined Legg's board late last month after his company, Trian Fund Management LP in New York, accumulated a 4.3 percent stake in Legg.

Although he had initial concerns about Peltz's experience in the asset management business, Fetting said he has been impressed with Peltz's knowledge and expertise as he spent more time with the billionaire investor, calling him and his team "very sharp business people."

Legg and Peltz both want to improve the company's cost efficiencies and operating margin, Fetting said.

"We share the mission of improving that margin, and it's really not an area of disagreement, but it's, 'Let's go make it happen,' " he said.

After struggling to contain costs to prop up its money market funds invested in toxic assets and clients pulling money out of its mutual funds, the company has reported two consecutive quarters of profit this year. Legg oversees about $703 billion in assets.

Rumors had circulated over the summer that Peltz was increasing his stake in Legg so that he could push for the company's sale or breakup. Legg's subsidiaries generally operate as separate businesses. And similar questions lingered after Peltz's election to the board.

Those reports are untrue, Fetting said.

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