HighTower on prowl for new CEO, Weissbluth to become chairman

Move is latest in Chicago-based RIA consolidator's effort to expand senior leadership team

Aug 20, 2018 @ 9:52 am

By Jeff Benjamin

Elliot Weissbluth is stepping down as CEO of HighTower Advisors and moving into the role of chairman as soon as the Chicago-based RIA consolidator hires a replacement.

The leadership change comes less than a year after HighTower sold a majority ownership stake to private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in October.

Mr. Weissbluth 51, said he is not being forced out by HighTower's private-equity owners. Nor is he leaving the firm he started 11 years ago.

"This was a collaborative decision around what we think is the best course of action for the business," he said.

As chairman, Mr. Weissbluth said he will focus on "merger and acquisition activity, attracting new advisory teams and providing strategic brand stewardship.

"Right now, the opportunity we have in front of us in terms of market opportunity is massive, and in order to capitalize on that we really need to expand the leadership team," he said. "If you have a business poised for growth, the smart thing to do is staff your team."

The first signs of change after Thomas H. Lee took control of the company came in April when Dave Pottruck, former CEO of Charles Schwab Corp., was replaced as HighTower's board chairman.

Last month HighTower hired Marc Cabezas from Edelman Financial Services to lead an "expanded M&A group."

According to a HighTower press release, the expanded M&A initiative was fueled by the recapitalization agreement with the new private equity owners.

In addition to searching for a new CEO, Mr. Weissbluth said HighTower is also looking to hire a "head of the field" manager "for a relationship management and practice management function."

The chairman role is currently held by Gurinder Ahluwalia, CEO of 280 CapMarkets and an executive adviser to Thomas H. Lee.

When Mr. Weissbluth steps into the chairman role, Mr. Ahluwalia will transition to a lead director role on the board.

"I was on the deal team with THL to acquire that majority interest in HighTower and am a champion of this business," Mr. Ahluwalia said.

Mr. Weissbluth said a search for a new CEO is already underway and that it is a priority.

HighTower has grown into one of the leading RIA consolidators, overseeing $55 billion in client assets by 92 adviser teams with 76 offices in 33 states.

Mr. Weissbluth, who founded HighTower in the midst of the financial crisis, credits the success of the firm to the trend of brokers moving toward a less-conflicted and more independent advisory channel.

Before starting HighTower, Mr. Weissbluth was president of boutique broker-dealer U.S. Fiduciary.

He also worked as director of marketing and research at RogersCasey, an investment research firm.

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