Marc O. Mayer this month became the first big fish to swim away from AllianceBernstein LP since the abrupt departure last December of Lewis Sanders as chairman and CEO.
Some Bernstein alumni say Mr. Mayer won't be the last. Even with an accomplished leader such as former Goldman Sachs Asset Management co-CEO Peter S. Kraus as successor, the fallout from the loss of Mr. Sanders — the legendary value investor — could put the respected Bernstein culture and wavering institutional clients in play, they say.
Industry veterans say they'll be watching to see whether long-time Bernstein professionals such as Marilyn Fedak, vice chair of investment services; Gerald M. Lieberman, president and COO; Sharon E. Fay, executive vice president, value investing; Seth J. Masters, executive vice president, defined contribution, asset allocation; David A. Steyn, executive vice president, distribution; and John Mahedy, CIO, U.S. large-cap value services, can continue to thrive in the post-Sanders era.
Those anticipating the greatest fallout stress Mr. Sanders' role in nurturing — and retaining — the current generation of key Bernstein executives. “Marc Mayer was very loyal to Lew. He would never have left the firm if Lew was there,” said one former colleague of both men, who declined to be named.
Some disagree, noting that opportunities less attractive than the one Mr. Mayer assumed on March 2 — as the first CEO of Boston-based Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo & Co. LLC — have lured away senior Bernstein people before, including Gary Black, Steven Pisarkiewicz and Sally Krawcheck.
Mr. Mayer didn't respond to requests for an interview.
But others say the shock to AllianceBernstein's culture of losing an investment legend such as Mr. Sanders, coupled with the higher-profile role parent company AXA Financial Inc. appears to be assuming, could prompt more key defections.
“When a person as integral to the culture as Lew Sanders leaves, you would expect to see some departures,” said Mr. Black, a former Bernstein veteran now serving as CEO of Denver-based Janus Capital Management LLC.