Following reports yesterday that independent broker-dealer Ladenburg Thalmann was exploring a sale of its IBD network, firm CEO Richard Lampen issued a statement to its reps that neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

Investment bankers familiar with the financial services business said that Ladenburg was working with Jeffries & Co. on strategic options, but they added it was not certain that there would ultimately be a transaction. They also indicated it was unlikely that Ladenburg would negotiate an acquisition that would involve parts of the IBD network.

In his email, Lampen sought to reassure the 4,400 advisors affiliated with the network that it was committed to maintaining an open architecture platform with multiple clearing and custodian partners. This statement effectively ruled out the potential sale of Ladenburg to self-clearing giants like LPL Financial and others.

When LPL acquired National Planning Holdings four IBDs in 2017, hundreds of reps chose to leave, in large part because they would be forced to move to LPL's clearing platform. Securities America, the largest IBD owned by Ladenburg, was the biggest single beneficiary of this exodus. That's one reson why revenues at Securities America climbed by more than 25 percent in 2018.

“As you may have seen, Bloomberg recently reported that Ladenburg Thalmann is working with a financial advisor to explore a sale of the company,” Lampen wrote. “As a matter of corporate policy, we don’t comment on market rumors or speculation.

“Ladenburg has shown strong performance on a standalone basis,” he continued. “Since our acquisition of Securities America in 2011, we have experienced dramatic growth in client assets, impressive operating financial performance, growth of our nationwide network of independent financial advisors and robust results from our capital markets and investment banking business.

“If you are asked about this news by your clients, you can assure them that it is business as usual. Of course, if we have something to announce, you will hear about it directly from us.”

Investment bankers estimated that with revenues of about $1.2 billion, Ladenburg’s five IBDs would be worth north of $1 billion. As of yesterday, the firm had a market capitalization of about $305 million.

However, it also has about $435 million in preferred stock and $315 million in debt, giving it an enterprise value of about $1 billion.