iM Global Is Buying U.S. Asset Manager Litman Gregory

The acquisition of the $6.2 billion firm is part of Paris-based iM Global’s U.S. expansion plans.

iM Global Partner will acquire Litman Gregory, a boutique asset manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

iM Global Partner will acquire Litman Gregory, a boutique asset manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

France’s iM Global Partner is buying asset manager Litman Gregory as part of its push to expand in the U.S., a deal that will bring its total assets to $24 billion.

Litman Gregory, based in Walnut Creek, California, has a total of $6.2 billion under management and advisory, according to an iM Global statement expected to be released Tuesday. While iM Global typically purchases minority stakes in fund managers, the firm is buying all of Litman Gregory in a deal that gives it a U.S. distribution platform for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, according to Jeff Seeley, who heads up iM Global’s U.S. business.

iM Global, founded by Philippe Couvrecelle in 2013, had been aiming to buy 100 percent of an “open-ended, sub-advised” mutual fund and ETF platform in the U.S. as part of its long-term business plan, Seeley said in a phone interview. Litman Gregory’s sub-advisors include Jeffrey Gundlach’s DoubleLe, Guggenheim Partners, and Segall Bryant & Hamill, he said, adding that discussions to purchase the business began a couple of years ago.

“We’ve been looking to further scale our U.S. mutual fund and wealth management and asset management platform,” said Seeley. “It’s easier through 100 percent acquisition than it is trying to control it through a minority stake.”

iM Global’s own mutual fund and ETFs may be sold through Litman Gregory’s distribution platform, according to Seeley. He said Litman was a good cultural fit for iM Global partly because the firm is “research-driven,” and he described the deal as being all about growth.

“We’re keeping all offices, all employees,” said Seeley. “If anything, we’ll be adding additional services and employees to help accelerate the growth.”

Steve Savage, chief executive officer of Litman Gregory, told Institutional Investor that the firm has been well-known for its research-driven approach to asset allocation and doing diligence on asset managers. The wealth manager has developed a broad range of U.S. mutual funds since 1996, according to the iM Global statement.

Savage said by phone that the deal with iM Global includes Litman Gregory’s $4.4 billion of assets under management plus $2.2 billion under advisory in its wealth management business. The combination will strengthen resources available to Litman Gregory’s wealth clients, he said, while providing iM Global with strategic positioning in the wealth management industry.

The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of June, pending regulatory approval.

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iM Global’s $24 billion of assets includes 100 percent of the UCITS platform Oyster that the firm bought in Europe, all of Litman Gregory’s platform, and the proportional share of interests that it has acquired through minority stakes taken in boutique fund managers, according to Seeley.

Meanwhile, Paris-based iM Global has plans to keep expanding in the U.S., possibly by taking a minority stake in a municipal debt manager and through additional investment strategies at managers in its portfolio, Seeley said.

“We’re looking at municipals right now as a potential for a new partner,” he said. “We have current partners that would like to launch additional strategies.”