The name of Barrington Associates, a boutique Brentwood investment bank founded nearly three decades ago, quietly exited from the Los Angeles finance scene last week.
Wells Fargo & Co., which bought the firm in late 2006, did away with the Barrington name last week, announcing that the firm would be folded into the Wells Fargo Securities brand. The Wells Fargo division also will incorporate the investment banking operations of Wachovia, which San Francisco-based Wells acquired last year.
In preparation for the change, Barrington laid off at least one-third of its investment bankers in recent weeks, the Business Journal has learned.
According to local industry insiders and former Barrington employees, the firm shed between 15 and 20 of its estimated 45 investment bankers, including at least seven from the Brentwood office; it also laid off at least 10 additional support staff members. As a result of the cuts, the firm's satellite offices in Newport Beach, San Francisco and Boston will be shut down, sources said; only the Los Angeles office will remain.
Several former Barrington employees said they believed the firm had been pushed aside in the merged division in favor of Wachovia, which had a large investment banking operation. "Clearly Wachovia is running the show," one former Barrington employee said.
Elise Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo Securities, declined to confirm specific staffing levels, but she said the company does not anticipate major layoffs for the rest of 2009.
"While some fluctuations in staffing level will naturally occur, we expect the size of the Wells Fargo Securities team in Los Angeles to remain relatively stable for the remainder of the year," she said.
Since its founding in 1982, Barrington advised and arranged mergers and acquisitions for middle market companies. In 2002, for instance, it handled the $685 million sale of Herbalife International Inc. to a pair of investment firms.
When Barrington was acquired in 2006, Wells Fargo said it intended to keep the Barrington name and all of its employees.
But the economic downturn has taken a severe toll on investment banking across the country. With a dramatic decline in M & A; activity and a dearth of initial public offerings, many firms have resorted to layoffs.
Edward Wedbush, president of Wedbush Morgan Securities Inc. in Los Angeles, said his firm has seen a significant increase in the number of applicants from investment bankers who were laid off from competing firms.
"There's been a huge reduction in business over the last two years," said Wedbush, who was unfamiliar with Barrington's situation. "Equity public offerings are almost nonexistent and M & A; transactions have declined dramatically over the last two years. That creates a layoff environment."
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