This content was published on January 9, 2023 – 15:18
(Bloomberg) — Credit Suisse Group AG is close to an agreement to buy Michael Klein’s advisory boutique after several rounds of tense negotiations, according to people briefed on the talks.
As part of the expected agreement that’s been hashed out in recent days, the bank will value the firm founded by the incoming head of its First Boston spinout at around a few hundred million dollars, said the people, who asked not to be identified as talks are private. The Swiss firm engaged Deutsche Bank AG to provide a fairness opinion, two of the people said.
Credit Suisse, seeking to draw a line under years of losses and scandals, is carving out its dealmaking businesses under a storied brand and tapping ex-Citigroup Inc. banker Klein to try to return them to their former glory. An agreement can turn the focus for Klein to recruiting star dealmakers and talking with potential investors. The bank is gauging interest from private equity firms to take stakes or fund specific businesses such as leveraged finance, the people said.
The deal is expected to allow M. Klein & Co. shareholders to take an eventual stake in First Boston using proceeds from the sale, the people said. Klein and top executives at the Swiss bank clashed in recent weeks over issues including the value of the boutique, with the two sides at one point hundreds of millions of dollars apart on its value, the people said.
The parties achieved a breakthrough last week after discussions between top Credit Suisse executives and Klein, and the tensions are said to have eased in recent days, one person said. While haggling over price is a part of any transaction, the negotiations give an insight into Klein’s importance to CS First Boston and its effort to become an independent firm.
Credit Suisse shares rose as much as 3.4% on Monday, putting the bank on track for a five-day gaining streak, the longest in a year.
Representatives for the bank and Klein declined to comment.
Credit Suisse executives have been aiming to avoid more turbulence in a complex reshaping while holding the line on a deal that carries potential conflicts, the people said. The Swiss bank already faced questions when Klein, a member of the board committee that decided to carve out CS First Boston, was appointed to run it. The firm’s chairman has said Klein abstained from some votes on the topic.
Klein stepped down from Credit Suisse’s supervisory board to become CEO designate of CS First Boston as part of the bank’s major strategic revamp in October. But there remained the hurdle that he had his own advisory firm, thus the unusual move by Credit Suisse to buy it in order to bring him on board.
Shareholders who were just tapped in a $4 billion capital raise may raise questions over the firm spending nine figures buying an ex-board member’s company to bolster a business it’s spinning off over profitability concerns. But the Swiss bank needs someone to stem defections and turn the dealmaking unit around to attract other investors and free up Credit Suisse’s capital.
Klein is a veteran dealmaker who once ran Citigroup’s investment bank and has advised on many of the biggest global transactions.
Mark Klein, Michael’s brother and an executive and stakeholder at M. Klein & Co., is likely to join First Boston as part of the deal, the people said, which could raise further questions about corporate governance. And private-equity ownership would be complicated by the fact that one of the new company’s major business lines will be leveraged finance, which involves lending to those firms.
Credit Suisse First Boston will be a partnership model, with key employees having a level of ownership. The Swiss bank plans to maintain a majority stake initially, but may move to a minority share or pursue an initial public offering for the unit, a person familiar with the matter said at the time of the announcement in October.
Credit Suisse CEO Ulrich Koerner said the bank has already secured a commitment from an unnamed investor for a $500 million injection into the business, which is expected to house the bank’s capital markets, advisory and leveraged finance business. Credit Suisse has planned for CS First Boston to initially have about $4 billion of equity, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deliberations.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is one investor weighing whether to put about $500 million into the vehicle, other people with knowledge of the matter said last month. Other investors may include former Barclays Plc chief executive Bob Diamond’s Atlas Merchant Capital, the people said, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private. It’s unclear whether the Crown Prince’s interest would come in a personal capacity or through other investment vehicles in the Kingdom.
The Saudi National Bank, 37% owned by the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, was an anchor investor in Credit Suisse’s capital raise and now holds a near 10% stake in the firm, making it the top shareholder.
–With assistance from Allegra Catelli.
(Adds Credit Suisse shares in sixth paragraph)
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