At a time when many investment advisors are looking to sell all or part of their firms, the partners of Sullivan Bruyette Speros & Blayney (SBSB) have repurchased their RIA from Bank of Montreal. The transaction comes 13 years after the McClean, Va.-based firm was acquired by Harris Bank, which is a Chicago-based subsidary of Bank of Montreal.
No purchase price was disclosed, but Sullivan reports that the deal was financed by the firm’s five partners and a local bank. He anticipates that SBSB will be able to pay off the bank loan in about three to four years. Asked if they talked to any of the private equity or transition financing firms in the RIA space, Sullivan said they had not. Their goal was complete independence.
The northern Virginia RIA manages about $2.8 billion for nearly 900 clients. Sullivan says SBSB is planning to grow both organically and through acquisition.
The firm does not disclose revenues but they are believed to be about $20 million
He adds that the firm enjoyed an excellent relationship with Harris and BMO. "We made a lot of wonderful friends at the bank over 13 years and have tremendous respect for the lekadership team at BMO."
But the partners reasoned that if they were going to spend another 10 to 15 years in the business, they’d prefer to do it as owners.
“We see it as an opportunity for clients and employees,” Sullivan said. “we’ll be more aggressive in hiring and investing in the business.”
At present, SBSB, which has about 45 professionals, is seeking to add another five, including one in marketing and two investment specialists. Until now, the RIA had relied almost solely on referrals for new clients.
When SBSB decided to sell to Harris in early 2003, the tech bubble was winding down and the war in Iraq was just about to begin. Did the partners sell too soon?
Sullivan says no. “The Harris deal turned out better than we expected. They gave us a lot of independence and were great partners,” he says. The 2003 transaction also gave SBSB partners their own financial independence.