Mark Walter, CEO of asset manager Guggenheim Partners LLC, eschewed the usual pricey corporate art when his firm remodeled a couple of years ago. Instead, he bought dinosaur fossils, including a 4-foot-high Tyrannosaurus rex head for about $70,000 that sits near his office on the 49th floor of a Chicago skyscraper.
Buying big at the right price is a metaphor for the expansion Mr. Walter is pursuing at Guggenheim, more than doubling assets under management since the end of 2010 while Chicago rivals have grown about 20%. Guggenheim, formed in 2000, leapfrogged older firms to become Chicago's third-largest money manager, with $160 billion, behind Northern Trust Corp. and Nuveen Investments. The growth, including an investment this year in the Los Angeles Dodgers, is drawing attention to the formerly low-profile firm.
“We were kind of growing along pretty quietly without many of what I'll call splash-type events,” Mr. Walter said. In the past several years, “the markets were in such turmoil, there were more opportunities.”
Three hundred of the private company's 2,200 employees are located at its downtown Chicago headquarters, where it plans to take more space. The global firm also is expanding a second headquarters in New York, where there are 650 employees.
“They've had a good combination of smart acquisitions and bringing in the right people and growing it organically,” says Brien O'Brien, CEO of Piper Jaffray Co.'s Chicago-based Advisory Research Inc. unit, which has done business with Guggenheim.