Breaking News: Bear Stearns Merchant Banking is Still Independent

Lots of media chatter this morning over the news that Bear Stearns Merchant Banking will become an “unaffiliated independent company.” Kind of amusing, considering how the firm has spent the past three months telling anyone and everyone how it’s already independent.

The biggest measure of independence, of course, is where your money comes from. Bear Stearns provided just 18% of BSMB’s current fund – a $2.7 billion vehicle closed in 2006 – and will honor both its funded and unfunded commitments going forward (actually, JPMorgan will). In other words, no change. Ditto for investment strategy and investment staff.

The only major differences between independent BSMB and “newly” independent BSMB will be cosmetic. Chief among them is a new name, although the partners are nowhere close yet. “Everything seems to be taken,” says Gwyneth Ketterer, senior managing director and COO of BSMB. “Someone suggested we should just ask our kids to come up with it, because we’re having such a hard time.”

Beyond that, the firm has signed a lease for new office digs down the road (actual move within 60 days), and plans to hire a few back-office employees to replace a few Bear Stearns shared services.