NEW YORK -- With the abrupt resignation last month of James Cowperthwait, U.S. Trust Corp.'s investment division now is named after two people who no longer work there -- a situation far from unusual in investment management.
"You don't call Merrill Lynch and ask for Merrill," said Jeffrey Kanne, who for more than a decade has headed up Kanne, Paris & Hoban Inc. in the absence of Messrs. Paris and Hoban.
Yet Mr. Cowperthwait was sued by U.S. Trust, New York, for "improperly using the Cowperthwait name" after he started Cowperthwait Partners LLC. U.S. Trust argued it bought the investment reputation that goes with the Cowperthwait name when it purchased Campbell, Cowperthwait & Co. in 1992. After selling the firm, Mr. Cowperthwait ran Campbell, Cowperthwait as a division for U.S. Trust.
The New York State Supreme Court agreed with U.S. Trust and ordered Mr. Cowperthwait to stop using the name. The court also ordered Cowperthwait Partners to refrain from pursuing U.S. Trust clients, to refrain from using client data allegedly taken from U.S. Trust and to avoid luring other U.S. Trust workers to the new firm.
The order, a preliminary injunction, is good for three months, during which time U.S. Trust officials will try to uncover proof of its allegations against Mr. Cowperthwait and the 21 other individuals named in the lawsuit.
Mr. Cowperthwait could not be reached for comment. Regarding his own situation, Mr. Kanne said, "Firms are eclectic and opportunities strike and people move on." It was only after great deliberation that Kanne, Paris became KPH invest LLC Jan. 1.
"We spent close to three years thinking about it and reviewing it. We decided to use the old name with a twist, to modernize," he said.
Naming a firm after the principals seems to be the exception rather than the rule in today's investment management industry.
New money management firms are selecting names with visual, graphic appeal, names that lend themselves to colorful logos and compelling Web site designs: Atlas Capital Management LLC in Minneapolis; High Rock Capital LLC and Ironwood Capital Management in Boston; Villanova Capital Inc. in the Philadelphia area.
Yet the principals at DePrince, Race & Zollo Inc. in Orlando, Fla., felt it was important to have their names in the title when they formed the firm four years ago, Victor Zollo said. "We wanted to make sure our clients knew we were dedicated to them, and that we were the decision-makers," he said. Sometimes your name conveys the opposite of what you do, as with equity manager Alan Bond.
Last fall, Mr. Bond had the chance to change the name of his New York firm, which for seven years had been Bond, Procope Capital Management. He bought out Mr. Procope, then considered the name Bond Capital.
"A lot of people associated Bond, Procope with fixed income," he said.
Neither image helped him establish recognition for his equity management skills. So he created the word Albriond, an amalgamation of his full name, Alan Brian Bond.
"Whatever you choose, if you give the client 40% a year (in returns), they'll find you," the owner of what is now Albriond Capital Management LLC said.