Indie giant LPL execs load up on options

The latest move renews IPO speculation, industry observers say

Sep 20, 2009 @ 12:01 am

By Bruce Kelly

In a first, top executives with LPL Investment Holdings Inc. last week picked up hundreds of thousands of options to purchase the company's common stock — a move that has renewed speculation about a forthcoming initial public offering.

LPL's leading executives, including chairman and chief executive Mark Casady, already own shares of stock in the company. This is the first time that they have acquired options, according to filings made last Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mr. Casady acquired 120,000 options last week, and William E. Dwyer, president, national sales and marketing, acquired 50,000 options both with a strike price of $22.08.

The LPL executives can exercise 20% of the options annually over the next five years.

The move was significant observers said, particularly given the industry's intense speculation about a possible IPO.

Two private-equity firms acquired a majority stake in LPL in October 2005. Since then, the firm has roughly doubled its head count of affiliated advisers, now totaling 12,489 representatives across its broker-dealers.

“You just never know — [the firm] could be trying to save on cash compensation or build long-term incentives for people,” said Chip MacDonald, a partner in Atlanta with law firm Jones Day.

“Companies do make option grants before going public,” he said.

Another industry executive, who asked not to be identified, said that the options could be a reward for executives' work. “If it was part of an incentive package for management, it could mean they were going to go public soon,” the executive said.

According to SEC filings, the other LPL executives receiving stock options are managing director and general counsel Stephanie Brown, with 40,000; chief financial officer Robert Moore, with 80,000. and president and chief operating officer Esther Stearns, with 80,000.

Spokesman Joseph Kuo said that LPL has no additional comment.

At the end of June, LPL's advisers had $259 billion in assets under management.

E-mail Bruce Kelly at bkelly@investmentnews.com.

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