By Nadia Damouni and Peter Lauria
NEW YORK Oct 15 Almost as surprising as
Softbank Corp's $20.1 billion deal to acquire 70
percent of Sprint Nextel Corp was the Japanese company's
choice of its key U.S. adviser.
While industry major Mizuho Securities Co Ltd
acted as lead adviser in Japan and giant Deutsche Bank
was given an advisory role, Softbank tapped the small
and somewhat select merchant bank Raine Group as its lead U.S.
Raine, is ranked No. 30 among worldwide M&A financial
advisers according to Thomson Reuters data, and is relatively
unknown outside of the U.S. media and entertainment industries.
But Raine Group co-founder Jeff Sine and Softbank Chief
Executive Masayoshi Son have a relationship that spans almost a
decade. Their history together, which includes advising Softbank
for much of the last few years in its talks with Yahoo Inc
over Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group, gave Sine the edge
over the big investment banks, sources said.
"Jeff is very liked by Masayoshi Son," said a source close
to Sprint's deal with Softbank, who added that Sine's
relationship with Masa, as the Softbank CEO is known, dates back
to the banker's days at UBS. "Jeff was critical to the
Sine himself appeared modest in an interview with Reuters on
"Today is all about the deal and client," Sine said. "I
don't want to be seen as one of those bankers who is trying to
make themselves a star. That's not the right way to behave."
After working in the media and technology investment banking
practices of Morgan Stanley and UBS, Sine and former Goldman
Sachs media investment banker Joe Ravitch launched Raine Group
in 2009, consisting of an advisory arm and a private equity
The pair, who combined have more than 40 years of experience
as media and technology bankers, decided to focus on a small
number of clients, aiming to model their efforts on the days
when investment bankers were considered trusted advisers and
confidantes to CEOs.
Indeed, the demise of the investment banker as trusted
adviser was lamented by Evercore Partners' Jonathan Knee, one of
Sine's former colleagues, in a 2006 book called, "The Accidental
One of Raine Group's first big deals was advising Ari
Emmanuel's Hollywood talent agency Endeavor Agency in its merger
with legendary William Morris Agency. The resulting entity, now
known as William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, took a stake in
the bank and has an investment in its private equity fund. Raine
Group's other investors are a mix of large sovereign wealth
funds, including those run by the Abu Dhabi and Singapore
Raine Group also served as adviser to Dick Clark Productions
in its sale to investment firm Guggenheim Partners LLC this year
and acted as co-adviser alongside Goldman Sachs in the sale of
an 80 percent stake in basketball's New Jersey Nets in 2009.
With its dual mandate, Raine Group was also an investor in a
Sony-led consortium that bought EMI Music Publishing in a deal
worth $2.2 billion.
Sources said Sine is more active on the advisory side of the
bank while Ravitch is more active on the investing side - he is
responsible for Raine's investment in media company Vice, for
instance. While at Goldman Sachs, Ravitch worked on the launch
of the YES Network and The Weinstein Company, the movie studio
founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein after they left Miramax.