Has Janus Found its White Knight in Shining Armour?
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Has Janus Found its White Knight in Shining Armour?

Now that Janus has replaced CEO Gary Black with Tim Armour, what's next? Given the interim nature of Armour's appointment and the nature of Armour's own experience, the new chief could put a deal back on the table for the Denver-based asset manager. Yet some insiders see Black's departure as a sign that a Janus deal won't go down any time soon.

Deal talk has again swirled around Janus in recent months (after popping up for years). In February Franklin Resources' name floated through the press again as a possible Janus buyer and MFWire reported that MassMutual-subsidiary OppenheimerFunds (which, though New York-based, has a significant presence in Denver) was looking at buying Janus.

And now, in the wake of Janus' announcement Tuesday, two off-the-record sources told Reuters' Paritosh Bansal and Jonathan Stempel that Janus "talked with multiple parties [including private and insurers] about a takeover in the past several months." Those sources mused that deal talk may have fallen through thanks to Janus' recently "rich valuation" of about 30 times estimated earnings for 2009.

So where does Black's departure fit into all this sales talk? Several industry insiders told MFWire that the failure to do a deal may have forced out Black (who was chief investment officer of Goldman Sachs Asset Management's global equities arm before joining Janus as CIO and then CEO). Those insiders also hinted at internal personality conflicts at Janus, and they suggested that two more senior Janus executives are also on the way out.

"I suspect that he [Black] did not see eye-to-eye with the Board or the Chairman with regard to the proper way to pursue a firm with which to merge," one industry insider told MFWire.

"He [Black] was not well liked by those that respected him, and he was not respected by those that liked him," another insider quipped. "Combined with many opportunities missed or flubbed, the result was fatal."

"Their inability to do a transaction may have caused this decision to be made," added Geoff Bobroff, a mutual fund industry consultant. "I don't think they can return to the level of competition that they once had with the asset levels they currently have ... Janus has to combine with someone else."

Enter Tim Armour, a retired Morningstar vet who joined Janus' board last year and has now been tapped as interim CEO. If the lack of a deal and a personality conflict led the Janus board and Black to part ways, Armour may offer the connections and deal-making ability that the board is seeking. Armour swept into the Chicago-based fund ratings specialists in the nineties with more capital and ultimately helped bring in a giant investment from Softbank. Now Morningstar is a multi-billion dollar public company.

Of course, Janus is already a multi-billion dollar public company, so the work cut out for Armour here will be substantially different from what he did for Joe Mansueto and company.

On the flip side, industry consultant Burt Greenwald countered that it may have been Black, not Janus' board, who was pushing a deal.

"I sense that the board is very reluctant to do any deals," Greenwald told MFWire. "I think that Black had some deals lined up and the board rejected them ... That may have been part of the dissension."

So will Armour usher in a deal himself or simply ride things out until a permanent CEO is found? Either way, insiders don't expect the new chief to "struggle" as much with the board.

"A lot of bankers have worked a long time on deal ideas and they need to get paid," one insider claimed. "After that, [expect] either a new CEO or a sale."
Armie Lee contributed to this story.

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