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Investment banking goes Hollywood

Merv Griffin, investment banker?

Merv Griffin, investment banker? To those who know the 1970s talk-show personality only as a standout in the entertainment world, the idea might seem far-fetched. But since The Merv Griffin Show went off the air in 1986, Griffin, 79, has been building a business empire. In 1986 he sold production company Merv Griffin Enterprises, which owned the lucrative rights to game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, to Coca-Cola Co. for $250 million. He sank much of that fortune into real estate and today owns dozens of hotel and casino properties, such as Resorts International in Atlantic City.

Now Griffin is putting his know-how to use advising other real estate moguls on mergers and acquisitions and helping them to raise capital, as chairman of investment bank Griffin & Co., which opened its doors last month in Los Angeles. Joining Griffin in the new venture are two other real estate heavyweights: Lawrence Cohen, who has run Griffin's property investment group since 1997, and Randall Zisler, a former Princeton economics professor who started the investment banking group at Chicago-based real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. The pair will serve as co­managing directors of Griffin & Co.

"This is another way of doing what I've loved doing all my life: bringing together talented people who know how to give outstanding performances," says Griffin. "I believe we'll be right on the money, both literally and figuratively."