The Business Journal spotlights local investment bankers who are capitalizing on Wall Street’s chaos.
Greg Range makes no bones about it: In this economy, traditional mergers and acquisition activity “is terrible.”
A drop-off in M&A can spell doom for the investment bankers who make a living arranging the transactions. But Range, managing director of Duff & Phelps’ L.A. office, isn’t worried.
In fact, a sharp increase in demand for distressed M&A and restructuring services for bankrupt or struggling companies – areas Duff & Phelps specializes in – have more than offset the decline in traditional work this past year.
“While the healthy M&A business is terrible on a global basis – an order of magnitude down 40 to 50 percent, depending upon the segment – the restructuring business is booming,” Range said. “We think that business is going to continue on a very healthy clip throughout 2010 because there’s just too many problems out there that haven’t been solved.”
The firm is advising on a number of high-profile restructurings, including those of bankrupt theme park operator Six Flags Inc. and the publisher of Maxim magazine.
A nearly 80-year-old international investment bank headquartered in New York, Duff & Phelps now has nearly 100 people in Los Angeles that Range oversees, much more than in his early days with the firm.
Range, who received his M.B.A. from UCLA in 1983, spent several years with a local investment bank before joining Duff & Phelps in 1990 to help grow the L.A. operations, which at the time was only three people.
“We were a much, much smaller firm,” he said. “Now, we’ve got 90 to 100 people in Los Angeles, 1,200 people around the globe and we’re a public company. It couldn’t be any more different at this juncture.”
The firm now has more than a dozen offices across the United States as well as international locations in cities such as Paris and London.
Like other firms with strong restructuring practices, Duff & Phelps has been adding talent, which has become plentiful as larger firms have fallen on hard times. The firm has also been able to grab new business.
“We’ve picked up market share, I’d say, across the board,” he said. “If you’re in the right position, you can take advantage of it, and I think we’ve been able to do that.”
With business booming on the distressed side, Range said he expects 2010 to be a good year, even if it’s not back to pre-recession levels. Still, Range said he’s eager for healthy M&A to make a comeback.
“It’s much more fun on the healthy side because you help an owner, an entrepreneur, a private equity firm realize a price for their business,” he said. “If it’s an entrepreneur you’re really advising them on the most important asset and the most important transaction that they will ever go through. The ability to really impact somebody in that way is really rewarding.”
After nearly three decades in the industry, Range has seen a number of market cycles. While bankers will debate which downturn was the most severe, Range said the current one clearly takes the cake.
“I don’t know that we know how this downturn is going to shake out and when it’s going to end but so far it’s much worse than ‘90,” he said.
GREG RANGE, 50
Duff & Phelps Corp., West Los Angeles
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