Alexandra Lebenthal – who followed in her father Jim Lebenthal’s footsteps to lead the family-owned Wall Street firm for more than a decade – stepped down as chief executive officer and board member of Lebenthal Holdings LLC, effective June 7.
Her brother, James B. Lebenthal, resigned as chief executive officer of Lebenthal Asset Management to pursue other opportunities in asset management. The changes come after the firm failed to close a deal to sell a 49% stake in Lebenthal & Co., to South Street Securities Holdings Inc. last month. In addition, South Street would have acquired 100% ownership interests in Lebenthal Asset Management, LLC and Lebenthal Family Office, LLC.
Now, Lebenthal is pursuing “strategic alternatives for its operating businesses” that may include the sale of one or more of its businesses to third parties, or a reorganization, according to a press release Thursday.
No further details about that sale were available, according to a representative for Ms. Lebenthal. Bloomberg reported that the firm was in negotiations with a new buyer for the family’s broker dealer and asset-management businesses.
Ms. Lebenthal will continue to serve as managing member of the woman-owned capital markets business, Lebenthal & Co.
She has faced several battles lately. In addition to the South Street deal falling through, earlier this year, James E. Cayne, former chairman of Bear Stearns Cos., sued her, seeking more than $438,000 he says is still owed from a $1 million loan in 2008.
In a written statement she said she takes pride in her achievements nonetheless.
“It has been a significant challenge to launch a startup, standalone financial services firm in the middle of the financial crisis, but I am proud of the many things that we have accomplished in the last nine years, including growing our asset management business and creating the leading woman-owned broker-dealer in the United States,” she said in the firm’s release.
She was not available for an interview, according to her representative.
In recent years, Ms. Lebenthal made several attempts to reinvent and rebuild the municipal bond empire, Lebenthal & Co., established by her grandparents, Louis and Sayra Lebenthal, in 1925 to sell odd lot municipal bonds to small investors.
Lebenthal & Co. was later made famous by Ms. Lebenthal’s father, James A. Lebenthal, the municipal pitch man whose iconic television commercials extolled the virtues of tax-free bonds and made the boutique a household name. The municipal bond guru took over the firm in 1963 and continued his stewardship for 50 years, even serving as chairman emeritus until his death in 2014. He is widely credited as the first broker to use the media to sell tax-exempt investments to individual investors. He coined such phrases in his ads as "bonds are my babies" while championing the debt of projects like the World Trade Center.
After growing up on Wall Street, at age 31, Ms. Lebenthal in 1995 became the third generation of the family to take the helm as president of the firm, whose core business was brokering municipal bonds to its well-regarded retail client base. She had been a director since 1992.
The firm isn’t a stranger to management and operational changes over the years.
Lebenthal & Co. was sold in 2001 to Advest, a firm later acquired by Merrill Lynch. Ms. Lebenthal relaunched her family business as Alexandra & James in 2007, and was able to buy the Lebenthal name back shortly thereafter.
The father and daughter duo re-entered public finance in Oct. 2006, taking charge of the broker-dealer arm of Israel Discount Bank of New York, calling it Alexandra & James Inc.
The idea surfaced after the Lebenthal brand ceased to exist in 2001 following its sale to Advest.
In 2007, James B. Lebenthal, Alexandra's brother, joined the firm as chief investment officer and portfolio manager with the creation of Lebenthal Asset Management.
In 2001, Lebenthal & Co. became the No. 1 woman-owned firm in underwriting corporate debt and equity.
The firm exited the municipal public finance business, in June of 2014 and shuttered its underwriting and institutional sales business to focus solely on municipal retail sales and building its wealth management division, after entering that business three years earlier.
Under the current organizational changes, all operating businesses of the company, including Lebenthal Asset Management, Lebenthal & Co., and Lebenthal Family Office, will continue operations during a transitional period, according to the firm.
Patricia Caldwell of Gordian Group will act as chief restructuring officer for Lebenthal during the transition.
Additionally, Doug Famigletti and Michael Jamison have been named Co-CEOs of the asset management arm upon James Lebenthal’s departure, and will work with a newly-established management committee of portfolio managers, according to the release. Steven Willis, senior managing director of capital markets, will oversee the business of Lebenthal & Co.
Ms. Lebenthal began her municipal bond career at Kidder Peabody & Co. before joining Lebenthal's sales department in July 1988. She was appointed head of the mutual fund department in 1993, before taking over as vice president of sales.
She is a 1986 graduate of Princeton University.