Sanctuary Sells Majority Stake for $50 Million to European Firm
Sanctuary Wealth Partners, an independent brokerage firm founded two years ago by former Merrill divisional manager Jim Dickson, is selling a 55% equity stake for $50 million to a European asset management firm.
“This transaction provides an unprecedented opportunity for Sanctuary to accelerate our growth,” Dickson said in a prepared statement. “With this strategic backing from Azimut, we are poised to assert ourselves as willing buyers of valuable advisory practices, for Sanctuary and on behalf of our elite advisor network.”
When the deal closes, senior management and “financial advisor partners” will control 45% of Sanctuary, the firms said.
Dickson, who had spent all of his 20-year career at Merrill and managed its midwest division prior to his 2017 exit, has moved quickly. He built Sanctuary by buying a stake in regional brokerage David A. Noyes together with a team of Wells advisors in 2018, and began selling it as a ticket to independence for, primarily, wirehouse advisors.
Sanctuary today has 41 advisor practices working with $12 billion in client assets in 17 states, according to the press release.
Dickson moved aggressively against his former firm for management and advisor talent. Vince Fertitta, Merrill’s former Texas Mountain South regional manager, joined last year as president after a brief hiatus from the wirehouse.
Sanctuary, which clears trades through a unit of Wells Fargo & Co., has continued to recruit during the pandemic even as it was negotiating the Azimut investment.
In August, it hired 34-year Merrill veteran Ted Longo, who leads a Louisiana team that was managing $530 million in client assets at Merrill. In July, a $500 million-asset Morgan Stanley team in Kansas led by Emily Bowersock Hill and Kaylin Dillon arrived. Last week, Sanctuary attracted a $150 million-asset team in New Hampshire from Ameriprise Financial’s employee channel.
Azimut, which is buying its Sanctuary stake through a U.S. subsidiary, AZ US Holdings, will have more patience than short-term private equity investors that have been staking rivals, Dickson said in published reports on Monday.
Washington D.C.-based Steward Partners, a group of around 130 advisors led by former Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney managers, recapitalized last year with a $50 million investment from The Cynosure Group.
Chicago-based Hightower Advisors, which oversees around $57 billion in assets, has been ramping up RIA acquisitions since it recapitalized in 2017 with a $100 million-plus commitment from private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners.
“Through this partnership, we will be able to supply the Sanctuary advisors with additional tools, products and our expertise in markets around the world,” Massimo Guiati, CEO of AZ US Holdings and Co-CEO of Azimut Group, said in a prepared statement.
Created in 1989, Azimut operates in 17 countries and manages more than $67 billion in public, private and emerging market securities, it said. It entered the U.S. in 2015 with partnership in Miami.
Berkshire Global served as financial advisor to Sanctuary.