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Rating:Ned Johnson Speaks Out on Sale Speculation Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, January 30, 2009

Ned Johnson Speaks Out on Sale Speculation

by: Armie Margaret Lee

Ned Johnson broke his silence regarding the speculation that Fidelity is being primed for a sale.

"I must confess that this is the very first time I've heard that we are selling Fidelity," the Fidelity chairman told The Boston Globe.

"I appreciate the Globe letting me know this important fact. In all seriousness, this sounds like a rumor put out by an investment banker looking for business. We're doing very well as a private company and have for many years. We are financially strong and moving forward aggressively against our competition in a great many areas. But we are also a conservative company . . . and, like everyone else, we are watching our pennies," Johnson said.

The sale speculation comes as Fidelity, like other asset managers, is feeling the pain from the market downturn and is laying off staff as part of cost-reduction efforts. The Globe also points out that some senior executives that recently joined the Boston Behemoth still have homes in the New York area. The New York addresses are causing some Fidelity watchers to wonder whether that meant big changes are coming at the Boston Behemoth.

For instance, Rodger Lawson, a Fidelity executive in the '80s who rejoined the company as president in 2007, has a home in Boston and one in Manhattan and remains an active voter in New York, according to the report. In addition, at least three other senior hires are still registered to vote from New York area residences.

"The fact that none of these people moved here makes them look like short-timers," an ex-Fidelity employee told The Globe. "So the question is, is Ned preparing to sell the company? It doesn't look like he's making a long-term play," said the former employee, who was not identified.

Lawson dismissed the speculation as "ridiculous."

Fidelity spokeswoman added that Lawson spends most of his time in Boston, though she would not say whether Lawson or the other recent arrivals at the company have primary residences in the city.

Crowley pointed out that Fidelity has developed major operations in the New York area and others. "We're an international company with multiple locations throughout the US and the world, and about three-quarters of our employee base is located outside of Massachusetts," she told The Globe.

Other senior executives that are listed as active voters in the New York area include Robert Chersi, who last year took on the role of finance chief of Fidelity's financial services business; Michael Clark, who runs the institutional services business, and Michael Wilens, who leads the asset management division.

Those out-of-Boston addresses suggest that Fidelity might be run out of New York down the road, said James Lowell, editor of the Fidelity Investor newsletter.  

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