H&R Block, Inc. will bow out of the financial advice business with Tuesday's announcement it will sell H&R Block Financial Advisors to Ameriprise Financial, Inc. for $315 million in cash. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals, and the final purchase price might differ based on changes in the balance sheet and advisor retention. It's expected to close in four to six months.
Ameriprise gains H&R Block's 900 advisors working in 135 offices nationwide, representing 376,000 clients with $30 billion in assets. For Ameriprise, a Minneapolis-based company that was spun off from American Express in 2005, the deal is part of its strategy to expand its advisory business. Last week, its independent broker-dealer unit, Securities America Inc. of Omaha, Neb., announced it bought Brecek & Young Advisors, Inc., a Folsom, Calif. company with more than 300 advisors and $1.3 billion in fee-based assets.
And this week, Ameriprise announced it will sponsor the Financial Planning Association's seventh annual Financial Planning Week to held in October. That's the first time the event will have a sponsor.
H&R Block's advisors will be Ameriprise-branded and are expected to bolster the company's presence in key growth markets such as Florida, Texas and California. The combined company will have roughly 13,000 advisors and $305 billion in assets.
H&R Block acquired its advisory business in 1999 when it bought discount broker Olde Financial Corp. for $850 million in cash in an effort to diversify operations beyond its signature tax-preparation work. Olde Financial brought some baggage to the table--the company and its principal owner were fined $7 million in 1998 for advertising and sales-practice abuses during the early 1990s. Now, H&R Block has decided to abandon the financial advisory space at an exit price well below its entry price.
"The securities brokerage business increasingly demands size and scale, and HRBFA simply did not have the size to be able to compete at the highest levels in the future," H&R Block Chairman Richard C. Breeden said in a statement. "This transaction will give the HRBFA financial advisors a dynamic parent company with a growing platform so that they can compete effectively and efficiently."
The sale of its advisory unit to Ameriprise is Kansas City, Mo.-based H&R Block's latest move to shed ancillary operations in order to focus on its core tax services business. In May, it closed the sale of its mortgage servicing business, Option One, to an affiliate owned by billionaire Wilbur Ross. HRBFA says it will provide advisors with attractive retention packages as part of the transaction.