Lightyear Capital is lead bidder for SunTrust's RidgeWorth: sources

NEW YORK Thu May 2, 2013 1:51pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York-based private equity firm Lightyear Capital has emerged as the lead bidder to buy SunTrust Banks Inc's (STI.N) RidgeWorth Investments asset management unit, three sources familiar with the situation told Reuters this week.

SunTrust also received bids from two other private equity firms: New York-based Crestview Partners and Chicago-based Thoma Bravo LLC, said two of the sources, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Lightyear is likely to pay between $250 million to $300 million for RidgeWorth, one of the sources said. RidgeWorth and its boutiques managed approximately $50.4 billion in assets as of March 31, according to the firm's website.

A spokesman for Atlanta-based SunTrust declined to comment. A Lightyear spokesman did not return a request for comment.

For SunTrust a sale of RidgeWorth would mark the end of a process that has been on and off for the past three years.

SunTrust first 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.

Earlier this year, SunTrust provided a handful of private equity firms with updated information about mandates that RidgeWorth had won from institutional investors, in hopes of selling RidgeWorth, the sources said.

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.

(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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