Court OKs Sale of Neuberger Berman to Employees

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NEW YORK – A bankruptcy judge on Monday approved the sale of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s prized investment management unit to a group of managers and employees.

The sale was worth $922 million to the Lehman bankruptcy estate, a Lehman lawyer said. It includes the Neuberger Berman money management business.

"We are thrilled with the opportunity to move forward as an independent firm following Judge Peck's final, formal approval of the purchase of Neuberger Investment Management by its management and employees," Neuberger spokesman Randy Whitestone said in a statement. "Today's decision ends a period of uncertainty for what remains a strong and vibrant business."

The employee group won a contested auction earlier this month, beating two other bids. One of those bids came from the private equity firms Bain Capital Partners and Hellman & Friedman, and the other from Crossmark Investment Advisers.

The bid from the Bain and Hellman group would have been worth about $745 million. The lawyer said Crossmark's bid was worth less.

Lehman was forced into bankruptcy in September. Neuberger Berman was the last big asset to be sold off in the bankruptcy.

Under the deal, the Lehman estate gets 93 percent of $875 million in preferred equity, while the new owners get 7 percent of the preferred shares. The Lehman estate would get 49 percent of the common shares while the Neuberger managers would get 51 percent of the common shares in the new company, to be called Neuberger Investment Management.

George Walker, global head of investment management for Lehman Brothers, will be chief executive, and Joe Amato will continue to lead Neuberger Berman, the largest operating unit. Neuberger Berman was founded in 1939 by Roy Neuberger.

The entire investment management unit manages approximately $160 billion of assets. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter.

Lehman Brothers Holdings' bankruptcy filing was the biggest in U.S. history, with assets of $639 billion and debt of $613 billion. Its filing marked the end of what was then the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank.

Lehman has already agreed to sell key U.S. assets to Britain's Barclays Capital for $1.35 billion and its Asian, European and Middle Eastern businesses to Japan's largest brokerage, Nomura Holdings Inc. for $2 billion.