Muriel Siebert's discount brokerage is said to seek buyers

Firm could fetch more than $50M from likes of E*Trade, TD Ameritrade, Scottrade

Mar 20, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

Siebert Financial Corp., whose late founder, Muriel Siebert, was the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, is exploring a sale, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The brokerage is working with Raymond James Financial Inc. to seek a buyer and could fetch more than $50 million in a sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is not public. Siebert Financial jumped 59% to $3.24 in New York trading Thursday, giving the company a market value of $71.6 million.

The company is too small to appeal to private equity but could draw interest from larger discount brokerages such as E*Trade Financial Corp., TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. and Scottrade Inc., two of the people said.

(See also: Siebert Financial names longtime associate to CEO post)

Known as Mickie, Ms. Siebert broke into the all-male membership of the exchange by paying $445,000 for a seat in 1967 after a career as a financial analyst. She died of complications from cancer in August at 84. She started Muriel Siebert & Co. in 1969 and retooled it as a discount brokerage in 1975 as Wall Street adopted negotiated commissions rather than fixed ones.

At her funeral, she was remembered for her devotion to her dog, Monster Girl, and love of fast cars. She got her start on Wall Street as research analyst with Bache & Co. Ms. Siebert was also the first female superintendent of banks for New York State, and in 1982 unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Siebert Financial “has been exploring opportunities to grow and enhance the firm's offerings, including through strategic alliances, since the death of our founder,” according to an e-mailed statement from spokesman Tom Butler. “The board of directors will explore any options that enhance our competitive position and expand our product offering.”

BILLIONAIRE STATUS

Siebert Financial, which went public in 1996, has 35,000 client retail accounts containing $7.2 billion in assets, according to Thursday's statement. The brokerage offered clients the option to trade online, and for two brief periods in 1999, as Internet-related stocks soared, her ownership stake briefly made her a billionaire. Within months, some $700 million of that disappeared.

Spokesmen for Raymond James and E*Trade declined to comment on the sale. Representatives for TD Ameritrade and Scottrade didn't reply to phone calls seeking comment.

Siebert Financial's third-quarter loss widened to $1.6 million from $912,000 a year earlier, according to regulatory filings. Ms. Siebert held 90% of the company's stock as of April 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company is starting an investment management venture with Palladiem Partners and Brinker Capital next month, according to Thursday's statement.

(Bloomberg News)

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