There’s a saying in sports: sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make.  

And in the early part of the prior decade, Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors LLC was on the verge of trading its future to one of three entities that wanted to buy it. One was a private equity firm trying to enter the nascent roll-up business. The second was a well-known roll-up––before it had actually done its first deal. And the third party wanted to do a financing-oriented deal. In all three cases, which were fairly close together in time and entailed detailed discussions, the dollar amounts were substantially more than what Halbert’s partners thought the firm could earn over the next five years.

“So we really had to sit down and decide why we didn’t want to do any of these deals,” recalls Halbert’s 47-year-old president and chief operating officer John C. Abusaid, who goes by JC. “Russ [Hill, Halbert’s chairman and CEO] asked the other partners what they wanted to do, as there was a fair amount of their money at stake, though he was not personally interested in selling. Their answer was that they had only considered selling because they thought Russ would want to sell, but that they did not want to sell. It was not a matter of price, but rather a desire to continue building Halbert Hargrove’s future.”

Once that epiphany was reached, the next order of business was, “OK, now what?”

“Since these were reasonable offers with real money on the table, we then had to decide what must be done to make turning down the offers not feel––and potentially be––incredibly stupid,” Abusaid says.

That meant focusing on creating a sustainable business and establishing an internal financing/incentive mechanism to bring it about. “After looking at the internal-rate-of-return calculations of the potential acquirers, we decided that if someone were to earn these returns, it should be our associates and shareholders rather than outsiders,” Abusaid says.

Today, Halbert Hargrove is a thriving firm with roughly $4 billion in assets under management spread across its clientele of high-net-worth individuals, pension and profit-sharing plans, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, corporations and business entities. Amazingly, the company nearly doubled its asset base in 2013 (more on that later), making it one of the fastest-growing firms on Financial Advisor magazine’s annual RIA Survey list.

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