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Rating:What's In a Fund Firm's Name? Ask Ariel Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Monday, November 23, 2015

What's In a Fund Firm's Name? Ask Ariel

News summary by MFWire's editors

John Rogers, Mellody Hobson, and their team are engaged in another outside battle over brand.

Christopher Bray
Ariel Capital Advisors, LLC
Managing Director
Sanders Wommack of RIABiz highlights the court battle between Chicago-based, 32-year-old mutual fund shop Ariel Investments [profile] (led by CEO Rogers and president Hobson and previously known as Ariel Capital Management) and Naples, Florida-based, 22-year-old wealth management RIA Ariel Capital Advisors (led by Christopher Bray, founder). In April Ariel Investments sued Ariel Capital Advisors in the Northern District of Illinois over the similar names, and last month the judge shot down Bray's attempt to move the case to a Florida court.

Ariel Investments [profile] did not comment to RIABiz for the article.

"This is just overreaching -- this is bullying," Bray's attorney, Adam Wolek of Chicago-based law firm Wolek & Noack, tells the trade publication. "There's no likelihood of confusion between the two companies."

Bray says he named Ariel Capital Advisors after his daughter, and he and his family have long volunteered with an organization called Ariel Ministries. Yet Judge Matthew Kennelly notes that, given that Bray searched for the Ariel name online and that Ariel Investments would've come up prominently, "it is certainly enough for present purposes to give rise to an inference that Bray realized, or deliberately chose to ignore, that he was adopting a name that arguably was confusingly similar to that used by Ariel Investments."

Bray's first choice name was Ariel Wealth Advisors, a name already taken by a New York RIA. Bray says that, after a call from Ariel Investments last fall, he reached out to Ariel Wealth Advisors, whose CEO said Ariel Investments had thus far not bothered Ariel Wealth Advisors.

Yet this is not Ariel Investments' first fight over potential brand confusion. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, a similarly-named hedge fund came under fire over its losses in the Bernie Madoff scandal, and Ariel Investments sent the fund a cease-and-desist letter. And in 2013 Ariel Investments went after an institutional high-yield credit manager for using Aesop's fable-inspired tortoise branding similar to the fund firm's own "slow and steady wins the race" tortoise imagery. Ariel Investments and the institutional asset manager, Shenkman Capital Management, settled out of court in 2014, and Shenkman swapped in eagles while dropping its tortoises.

Meanwhile, Bray tells RIABiz that he's "not going to roll on this." Bray's Ariel Capital Advisors now has $225 million in assets. Ariel Investments now has $10 billion in AUM.

To dig deeper into the Ariel-Ariel battle, read the full RIABiz article

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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