(Bloomberg News) Wells Fargo & Co. is seeking buyers for the H.D. Vest brokerage and tax-advisory unit that it bought for about $128 million a decade ago, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The business may fetch more than $200 million and attract interest from private-equity investors, said one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.
Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf, 57, has been revamping the wealth, brokerage and retirement business after calling it "sub-optimized" in December, and is seeking acquisitions in the sector. He shuffled regional managers in the wealth-management unit earlier this year, cutting them from 12 to seven, Vince Scanlon, a bank spokesman, said in a May 6 e- mailed statement.
Alan Elias, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, declined to comment.
The unit, founded by Herb D. Vest in 1983 and sold to Wells Fargo in July 2001, is the largest U.S. provider of financial services delivered through tax and accounting professionals, the Irving, Texas-based unit said on its Web site. It has about 5,200 independent contractors, including certified public accountants, enrolled agents and tax practitioners, and oversees more than $26 billion of client assets, according to the Web site.
Wells Fargo, which struck $25 billion of acquisitions over the past decade, rarely sells business units. Excluding private-equity investments and buildings, its only divestiture exceeding $100 million in the past decade was the $734.5 million sale in 2006 of Island Finance, a San Juan, Puerto Rico-based bank, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.