After the financial crisis, which upended the economy and pushed the country deeper into a recession, the corporate finance markets ground to a halt this year.

And despite being some 3,000 miles from Wall Street, the robust community of mostly boutique investment banks in Los Angeles could not escape the upheaval.

But midway through the year, a measure of confidence returned to the markets. As a result, mergers and acquisition activity made a comeback, equity offerings resumed and L.A.’s investment bankers were able to get back to work.

What’s more, several local boutiques took the opportunity to expand, dipping into the deep, available talent pool left by Wall Street’s implosion.

“There’s no question that client activity picked up in the last half of the year,” said Edward Wedbush, president of Wedbush Morgan Securities Inc., an investment bank in downtown Los Angeles that added 300 employees this year. “There’s been a resurgent demand for all kinds of financing: IPOs, secondary offerings, private financing.”

In the summer, for instance, West L.A. investment bank B. Riley & Co. helped close the $175 million acquisition of liquidation specialist Great American Group in Woodland Hills by a special-purpose acquisition company – the first successful SPAC deal in Los Angeles in about a year and a half.

Restructuring activity, too, has been strong.

Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin of Century City was hired in March to advise theme park chain Six Flags Inc. on its restructuring.

Shortly thereafter, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. brought in Moelis & Co., a Century City investment bank founded in 2007, to refinance the film studio’s debt. More recently, Moelis got a high-profile gig advising Dubai World on its $26 billion debt-restructuring effort.

“The restructuring business has been very active,” said Navid Mahmoodzadegan, managing director and co-founder of Moelis. “It’s been a very important driver of growth.”

And with the big firms still trimming their ranks by the thousands, a number of local investment banks said they have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add top-shelf talent.

Wedbush Morgan has grown from about 700 employees to 1,000 in the past year, and has tentative plans to open at least two additional offices soon. Imperial Capital in Century City added two dozen people in 2009, while B. Riley hired 10.

For Moelis, the hiring came fast and furious. In May, the firm snagged Stuart Goldstein from Citigroup; Merrill Lynch veteran Kevin Scheetz joined the following month; a team from JPMorgan Chase moved to Moelis in September. In total, the boutique firm has grown nearly 90 percent this year to 270 employees, a spokeswoman said.

Prev

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.