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Chasing the dragon

30 August 2012 By Jeffrey Goldfarb

It’s hard for a deal addict to go cold turkey. Eric Gleacher, a veteran of the landmark RJR Nabisco and Revlon buyouts, is mulling a sale of his eponymous advisory firm – again. The former mergers boss of Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley has sold and bought it before.

He’s an M&A Zelig of sorts, turning up all through Wall Street lore. Dick Fuld, the last Lehman chief executive, recalled interviewing with Gleacher for his first job at the firm. Gleacher featured in two celebrated books about the underbelly of the industry – “Barbarians at the Gate” and “Den of Thieves” – and alongside Robert Greenhill, Felix Rohatyn and lawyer Marty Lipton in a 2008 chronicle of 11 men who essentially built the business of merger advice.

Gleacher practices what he preaches. In addition to defending the likes of Texaco and Union Carbide against hostile predators, he has negotiated numerous transactions for himself. Shortly after setting up his own shop in 1990, he sold a piece of it to Morgan Grenfell. A few years later, NatWest bought Gleacher’s boutique. While there, he acquired a piece of the storied British Hambros operation, before buying the whole business back from NatWest and then advising Bank of Scotland on a bid for his former owner.

Two decades later, the ex-Marine was still wheeling and dealing. Amid the crisis fallout and the demise of Lehman, Broadpoint Securities agreed to buy Gleacher Partners for $68 million. Gleacher has even managed to do a deal with himself, near enough. His name adorns the shingle of Gleacher Shacklock, a London firm with which Gleacher & Co. – the company where the dealmaker is currently chairman and 11 percent owner – maintains a reciprocal relationship.

An ill-fated foray into equities trading has left Gleacher’s current firm scrambling. Jobs have been cut and senior executives replaced, including the appointment of a new investment banking chief this week. The publicly traded shares are down by half this year, one reason for Thursday’s announcement that Gleacher & Co. is seeking an investor or buyer. At 72, an exit could be Gleacher’s swansong. Or maybe he just lives for doing deals.

 

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