At least 150 officers of Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin will be cashing out private shares as part of the sale of a 70 percent stake to Japan's Orix Corp. for roughly $500 million.

Orix, a financial services firm, gives investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey the deep pockets to expand in Asia and provide financing for its merger and acquisitions practice.

Orix, which owns aircraft and car leasing firms, insurance and credit card services, as well as the Orix Buffaloes baseball team in Japan, likely will introduce Houlihan Lokey to some of its 500,000 domestic customers.

"What this does is provide cash availability and a strong balance sheet that will allow us to expand globally," said Bob Howard, a senior managing director and founder, who said that employees who are non-stockholders will receive some benefits as well.

The match came about earlier this year when Orix hired Houlihan Lokey to find a U.S. partner. Houlihan's management and board will remain in place with day-to-day operations run by co-chief executives Scott Beiser and Jeffrey Werbalowsky. Orix USA's corporate lending and real estate services will remain in Dallas.

Houlihan, with 715 employees and 1,000 transactions last year, has been pushing to expand globally. It recently opened an office in London and plans to open offices in Paris and Frankfurt by year-end.

The firm was founded in 1970 by O. Kit Lokey and Richard Houlihan, two executives at the former accounting firm Price Waterhouse. The firm's valuation business took off in 1974 with the passage of ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which created demand for independent valuations of private businesses, particularly those that had formed employee stock ownership programs, known as ESOPs.

Houlihan was the No. 1 merger and acquisitions advisor for U.S. transactions of under $500 million last year, and the No. 5 advisor for all announced deals, according to Thomson Financial. It also served as advisor to the creditors' committees of three of the largest U.S. bankruptcies Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and Conseco Inc.

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