CHICAGO - Oakland-based investment firm Blaylock Robert Van LLC has merged with Ohio-based SBK Brooks Investment Corp. in a move that furthers Blaylock's plan to expand its municipal bond business.

Both firms are minority-owned business.

Details on the move were scarce yesterday. Monday morning, employees at SBK's Cleveland headquarters were answering the phones with Blaylock's name, and representatives from the firms said they planned to make an announcement late in the day.

The move advances Blaylock's plan to expand its public finance business. In the last year the firm has hired two public finance veterans, opened a Chicago office, and announced plans to acquire other firms as part of its expansion.

SBK works with issuers across the country, with a concentration in the Midwest. The firm regularly serves as co-manager on deals with Cook County, Ill., Detroit, and several Ohio and Cleveland issuers. The firm's Cleveland office includes four bankers, one trader, and nine salespeople, according to the Bond Buyer's Municipal Marketplace directory.

Blaylock, which is an investment bank and financial services company, has offices in Oakland, New York, and Chicago. Most of its municipal finance business has been with California issuers serving as co-manager or as part of an underwriting team. The firm worked on two Ohio state agency deals in 2008, according to its web site.

Blaylock has not worked as senior manager on any bond deals to date.

In May, Blaylock hired Aquacena Lopez to lead its planned public finance expansion, which was to include the acquisition of other firms. In November 2008, Blaylock hired Dudley Brown, a veteran of the financial services industry, to manage a Midwestern expansion from its reopened Chicago office. At the time, Blaylock president Eric Van Standifer said he expected the Midwest to "contribute significantly to our growth in the next few years."

Nationally, SBK Brooks in 2007 served as senior manager on three deals totaling $56.3 million, and on four issues totaling $26 million in 2008 - all in the Midwest, according to Thomson Reuters. SBK has not served as senior manager on any deals so far this year.

Blaylock Robert Van was formed from a merger between Blaylock & Co., an East Coast-based investment boutique that was founded in 1993, and Robert Van Securities, founded by Standifer in 1991.

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