Private equity firms bidding for SunTrust's Ridgeworth: sources

NEW YORK Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:00pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - SunTrust Banks Inc (STI.N) has found at least three private equity firms interested in buying its Ridgeworth Investments asset management unit, sources said, in the Atlanta-based bank's third attempt to sell the firm in as many years.

The price is likely to be $250 million to $300 million, one of the two sources said.

The prospective bidders include New York-based Lightyear Capital and Crestview Partners, and Chicago-based Thoma Bravo, LLC, said the sources, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

The regional bank in the past few weeks has reached out to a handful of private equity firms about buying Ridgeworth, the sources familiar with the situation told Reuters this week.

Ridgeworth has $48.1 billion in assets under management, according to the company's website.

The bank has provided a handful of buyers updated information about mandates that Ridgeworth has won recently from institutional investors, and it expects to get final bids in the next few days, one of the sources said, declining to elaborate.

A Lightyear spokeswoman did not return requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Thoma Bravo and spokesmen for Crestview and SunTrust declined to comment.

SunTrust, which suffered large losses during the financial crisis, was one of the few large U.S. banks whose capital plans such as raising dividends and initiating stock buybacks were rejected by the Federal Reserve Board last year in its stress-test reviews.

SunTrust tried to sell its asset management business, which includes six managers and its own Ridgeworth Funds, to Henderson Group Plc (HGGH.L) in 2010, but those talks fell apart. At that time the purchase price was estimated at $300 million to $400 million, according to media reports.

Last spring, SunTrust tried to sell its business again, but failed to cement a deal, the sources said.

If Crestview wins the Ridgeworth business, it would mark the second bank-owned asset management acquisition that the private equity firm makes this year.

Last week, Crestview teamed up with employees of Victory Capital Management to acquire Victory from KeyCorp (KEY.N) for $246 million.

(The story corrects second graph to say million instead of thousand.)

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Richard Chang)

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