Wealth manager HighTower Advisors is on the block

HighTower Advisors, an independent wealth management firm, is up for sale, three sources said.

JP Morgan is advising on the process, one of the sources said.

HighTower, a registered investment adviser, provides management services to wealthy individuals, endowments and foundations. The Chicago firm, which is not affiliated with a bank and can offer many different investment products, has 189 financial advisers at 69 offices in 28 states.

HighTower had $30.2 billion in assets as of March 30; it went up for sale earlier this year, sources said. “They are close to a deal,” the first source said.

The company was expected to sell for more than $450 million, a second person, one of the three sources, said.

HighTower geared its auction toward private equity, targeting mainly larger shops that have invested in financial services, sources said. These may include KKR, Carlyle Group, Hellman & Friedman, Advent International, General Atlantic and CVC, a third person said. Middle-market PE, including Lightyear Capital, Aquiline Capital, Lovell Minnick Partners and TA Associates, may also be interested.

Founded in 2008, HighTower has shifted from attracting wirehouse brokers to buying existing RIAs, AdvisorHub reported in July. The firm this year has attracted teams from Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch and LPL Financial, representing a combined $385 million in assets, the story said. In April, HighTower agreed to buy WealthTrust from Lee Equity Partners, saying the deal would boost its client assets to $46 billion.

HighTower is backed by several investors. The firm has raised $545 million in funding, including $345 million in two separate debt rounds, according to Crunchbase. The asset manager collected $100 million in PE funding in 2011 from unnamed investors, Crunchbase said.

Asset Management Finance, the hedge fund unit backed by Credit Suisse, led a $100  million investment in HighTower in December 2009. (AMF wound down in 2013 after Credit Suisse failed to sell the business, the Wall Street Journal reported.) It’s unclear if Credit Suisse is still an investor. DLB Capital, the investment firm from Doug L. Brown, the former vice chairman of investment banking at Morgan Stanley, invested in HighTower in 2008.

Other HighTower investors include M.D. Sass Macquarie Financial Strategies Fund, Macquarie Funds Group, Franklin Mutual Advisors LLC, Envestnet, and Offit Capital, according to firm’s most recent ADV filing.

Credit Suisse declined comment. HighTower, JP Morgan, DLB Capital, M.D. Sass, Franklin Mutual Advisors, Envestnet and Offit could not be reached for comment.

Action Item: Email HighTower CEO Elliot Weissbluth at eweissbluth@hightoweradvisors.com

Correction: A prior version of this story said that DLB is the investment firm from Donald L. Brown. That is incorrect. Doug L. Brown is the founder and CEO of DLB. The story has been changed.

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