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Monday, September 15, 2008

What Will Be Neuberger's Fate?

Reported by Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Speculation that Lehman Brothers was nearing bankrupty on Sunday night is raising questions about the future of mutual fund manager Neuberger Berman. On Monday, Lehman officials posted a press release stating that they intended to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for Lehman Brothers Holding Company. That filing would not effect Neuberger Berman's operations, according to the release.

The release followed financial reports on Sunday were that U.S. Treasury officials were meeting with officials from the Federal Reserve to find a way to deal with the crisis at Lehman. Early Sunday, news reports were that Barclays has pulled out of a potential deal for the brokerage firm.

The Wall Street Journal reported that there will be no bailout for Lehman and that it "faces liquidation."

What that means for Neuberger Berman is not immediately clear. There have been reports that senior Neuberger executives had been pushing for a deal and at one point had been considering a management buyout. That deal has failed to materialize over the past two months, however.

In the release, Lehman officials stated that hey are "exploring the sale" of the broker-dealer operations and that they are in "advanced discussions with a number of potential purchasers to sell its Investment Management Division." They added that they intend to "pursue those discussions as well as a number of other strategic alternatives."

In the meantime, the officials stated that Neuberger Berman and Lehman Brothers Asset Management will continue to conduct business as usual and will not be subject to the bankruptcy case of its parent.

The Neuberger Berman business is considered to be one of the few crown jewels remaining at Lehman and would be perhaps the firm's most valuable asset in a liquidation.

Still, it is unclear how Lehman would be able to retain the portfolio managers and other talent at the firm through a bankruptcy.

How Lehman's management walks through this mine field over the coming days may very well determine what Neuberger's mutual fund business looks like in the future. 

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