BOSTON - Standish, Ayer & Wood Inc., one of the oldest money managers in the United States, might be up for sale, according to sources.
The firm has hired an investment banker to explore a sale, according to sources, who could not name the investment banker.
Richard Wood, chief executive officer of the Boston-based firm, had no comment. Company officials would not confirm or deny that the firm is for sale, but in a prepared statement said, "Standish has stated over the past 12 months, in client communications, that the firm has had conversations over the years with other investment management organizations. In all those conversations, we have set very high standards - the key being that any affiliation must significantly benefit our clients and our employees."
Consultants and analysts weren't surprised by the rumors, because Standish is a midsized independent firm, and because it has struggled to gain assets in recent years.
Total assets declined to $44.7 billion at the end of 1999 from $46.2 billion at year-end 1998, according to Pensions & Investments data. Institutional tax-exempt assets dropped by $1 billion in that period, to $31.5 billion. Assets this year for the firm, which is known primarily as a fixed-income investor, have increased slightly to $45 billion, according to reports from the firm.
While the firm has had some wins in recent months, such as a fixed-income mandate for the $1.6 billion Seattle City Employees Retirement System, it also has been terminated as well, including the Baltimore County Employees' Retirement System, City of Austin Employees' Retirement System, and the Maine State Retirement System.
Year of transition
It has been a year of transition at the firm as Richard Wood was named president and chief executive officer in September, replacing George Noyes, who served in that role for 11 years before becoming vice chairman.
And Thomas Sorbo, former sales and marketing director, was named managing director and chief operating officer in September, a newly created position. George Whitmore was named vice president of adviser sales, a new position. Mr. Whitmore joined Standish in March from United Asset Management, Boston, where he was a senior vice president. In addition, the four members of the small-cap growth team - Nick Battelle, Drew Beja, Jonathan Stone and Ken Winston - resigned in August. Senior equity portfolio managers Edward Walter, Steven Gold and Nevin Markwart were tapped to fill the void.
Also, at midyear the firm elevated about 15 associate directors to director level.