Advisor-owned financial services company HighTower Advisors on Monday announced the addition of yet another breakaway wirehouse broker team, this one from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, saying that the Chicago-based Lerner Group is bringing $600 million in assets under management to a new HighTower office on Chicago’s North Shore.
Team head Eugene Lerner, 83, received his doctorate under University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, and Alan Greenspan was a student under Lerner when he was a professor at New York University. Lerner is now a professor emeritus at Northwestern University. Other Lerner Group members to join HighTower are Mingdong Tan, 38, and Walter Gondeck Jr., 31. All three will join HighTower as managing directors and partners.
This is the seventh new advisor team in 2012 to join the Chicago-headquartered financial services firm run by CEO Elliot Weissbluth (left), who this year was named one of Investment Advisor magazine’s IA 25 honorees. It is the 32nd team to join the HighTower partnership since its founding five years ago.
Mark Elzweig, a New York-based executive-search consultant who does recruiting in the asset management universe, says that the HighTower model is attractive to high-end producers because it allows them to join an independent firm with a multi-custodial platform and get deals that are a combination of upfront cash and firm stock. HighTower has not yet gone public, but observers expect it to eventually launch an initial public offering.
“HighTower is pretty well known to wirehouse advisors, and they’re not a new firm at this point,” Elzweig said in a phone interview. “They’ve been around for a few years, and that should only accelerate their growth going forward. Once a firm attracts a group of high-end producers, as they’ve done, they achieve critical mass.” IPO? That’s one of the attractions here, if they go public.
Lerner said in a statement that his group decided to join HighTower because of its open-source model and platform, both of which are unique to the industry.