Wells Fargo & Co said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its asset management business, which manages more than $603 billion on behalf of customers, to private equity firms GTCR LLC and Reverence Capital Partners for $2.1 billion. The sale represents the biggest shake-up at the U.S. bank since former Bank of New York Mellon top boss Charles Scharf joined as chief executive officer in 2019. Reuters reported in January that a Wells Fargo deal with the buyout firms was close. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo will own a 9.9% stake in the asset management unit and will continue as a client and distribution partner, the bank said. The $2.1 billion sale price includes the value of Wells Fargo's stake in the new company, GTCR Managing Director Collin Roche said in an interview. The business, to be rebranded upon the deal's completion in the second half of 2021, will continue to be led by Nico Marais as chief executive. Joseph Sullivan, the former head of Legg Mason, will join as executive chairman, according to Wells Fargo's statement. Under new ownership, focus would include growing its business among retail customers, including upon an existing strong position in separately managed accounts, Roche said, adding that further investment would be made in the company's technology offering. The sale of the asset management arm is in-line with steps taken by Scharf to turn around Wells Fargo following a sales practices scandal. The bank in recent weeks has also agreed to sell its private student loan portfolio and its Canadian direct equipment finance business. "This is not a business that would typically be for sale, so that became an opportunity for both of our firms," Reverence Capital Managing Partner Milton Berlinski told Reuters, adding that the franchise's size and product set would make it well-positioned to grow as an independent company. Wells Fargo Securities advised the bank on the divestment, with Broadhaven Capital Partners and UBS Group providing financial advice to the buyers. The respective legal advisers were Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Kirkland & Ellis. REUTERS
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