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Rating:FleetBostonHancock? Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, May 16, 2003

FleetBostonHancock?

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Boston is abuzz over published reports of meetings between the CEOs of FleetBoston and John Hancock to discuss a buyout or merger. Starting in late March Fleet's Chad Gifford and Hancock's David D'Alessandro held at least three meetings over three weeks to discuss a deal, reports the Boston Globe. The paper added that merger-and-acquisition teams also head meetings at both companiesí headquarters in Boston.

The talks reportedly ended even before the matter of price was raised in the negotiations. The sticking point were concerns that Fleet shareholders would react poorly to news of a deal, according to multiple news sources. Fleet itself is currently seen as an acquisition target and a deal with Hancock would have cratered any other possibilities.

There is a possibility that the talks could resume, the paper adds.

Jack Connors, chairman of Boston advertising agency Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos, brought the two sides together, reports the Boston Herald. The paper notes that both Fleet and John Hancock are large Hill Holliday advertising clients. Since both companies are reportedly in play, Hill Holiday risked losing both accounts.

"I care a lot about my clients, and Chad Gifford and David D'Alessandro are among my larger clients. I also care about the community," the Herald quotes Connors as saying. "So if you want to speculate that I would have liked to have seen a hometown deal, it wouldn't be a leap of faith."

The Globe lists Bank One, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo as banks interested in FleetBoston. It lists Metlife, Prudential Financial, Manulife Financial, and Sun Life Financial as potential buyers of John Hancock.

If FleetBoston and John Hancock cut a deal they would form the second financial services firm to intermarry banking and insurance. The only previous deal -- between Citibank and Travelers -- is seen by many as a failure compared to the initial expectations placed in that merger.

A deal would also present a new challenge to the mutual funds group at FleetBoston. That group has spent the past year digesting its pickup of Liberty Funds, which themselves were in the midst of consolidating multiple fund brands. Those funds are all now being consolidated under the Columbia Management brand. The addition of John Hancock would presumably create a new set of branding questions for the combined entity.

Stock analysts following the company expect that the firms would combine the operations of the two fund groups if there were a deal.  

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