Veteran investment bankers carve out a niche in South Florida
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Premium content from South Florida Business Journal by Kevin Gale
Launching a new business is never easy, but the investment bankers at Cassel Salpeter & Co. don’t have all the obstacles they once faced.
When James Cassel and Scott E. Salpeterstarted Capital Link LC a dozen years ago, local businesses were reluctant to engage a South Florida-based investment banking firm, Salpeter said. A big New York name was more comfortable.
“Back in 1998, 1999, we had to get business outside of Florida to get business in Florida,” he said.
Now, they not only have their track record at Capital Link to rely on, but also a stint at billionaire Phillip Frost’s Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services (AMEX: LTS) in Miami. Cassel was previously vice chairman and head of investment bank at Ladenburg, while Salpeter was a managing director. Frost acquired the 14-member Capital Link in what was valued as a $5 million deal after moving Ladenburg’s headquarters from New York to Miami.
Cassel Salpeter works in mergers and acquisitions, raising capital, restructuring, fairness opinions, valuations and financial advice, fulfilling a need that dates back to Capital Link’s 1998 founding.
The economic downturn threw a monkey wrench into the investment banking business.
“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as we hoped,” Cassel said. “If we could have eliminated 2008 and 2009, it could have been a love fest forever.”
Still, their investment banking operation at Ladenburg ranked in the top 10 of middle market activity, Salpeter said.
Cassel decided to leave Ladenburg at the end of 2009, and Salpeter left in May 2010.
They’ve brought along some former co-workers: VP Marcus Wai, who was a VP at Ladenburg and Capital Link; Christopher Mansueto, a chartered financial analyst who was a senior valuation analyst at Ladenburg; and associate Lindsey Smith, who was an associate at Ladenburg.
Before becoming an investment banker, Cassel was managing partner in the Miami office of law firm Broad and Cassel, which was founded by Alvin Cassel – the cousin of James Cassel’s father, Marwin.
Martin Press, a shareholder at Gunster who was previously managing partner for Broad and Cassel in Fort Lauderdale, saidMarwin Cassel told him before he died: “Jimmy was selling things to other people in the sixth grade. He was an entrepreneur from the age of 11, and only got better over the years.”
Press called the duo inseparable, but eventually the younger Cassel went on to do what he always wanted to do by entering investment banking.
Asked to describe James Cassel, Press said: “He’s tenacious. He is the type of guy who won’t give up and he will do everything in his power to make a deal work.”
A financial industry consultant, who asked not to be named, said he thought Cassel’s background as an attorney was a confidence-boosting advantage in giving fairness opinions on potential deals.
Cassel said he has 15 years of experience as a corporate and securities lawyer, and is a member of the New York and Florida Bars, despite not having a current practice.
“I think having that experience is helpful in doing fairness opinions and restructurings,” which often happen in bankruptcy court, he said.
In one high-profile case, Cassel Salpeter has done work for the secured creditors of Gulfstream International Airlines. Cassel said Jan. 3 that he was trying to help facilitate a sale of the business.
CASSEL SALPETER & CO., LLC
Chairman: James Cassel
President: Scott E. Salpeter
Address: 801 Brickell Ave., Suite 650, Miami 33131
E-mails: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Phones: (305) 438-7701 and (305) 438-7702