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Vestar sold - with strings attached

Gould Wealth Management (GWM) has executed its deal to buy Vestar, but the offer is conditional on getting existing clients to sign up to a new monitoring agreement.

Friday, June 6th 2008, 5:57AM
GWM chief executive Jeff Staniland says the price being paid is "much less" than the $52 million MFS paid for Northplan. Since that initial deal MFS also bought a number of other advisory firms and merged them into Vestar.

He says the price GWM is paying to ASX-listed Octiver (formerly MFS Australia) is conditional on how many clients accept the new monitoring agreement.

To get existing Vestar clients to sign up it is offering a 0.10% discount on its management fees.

GWM are not buying the shares in Vestar, it is only paying for the people who come across to the new management agreement.

There is speculation that Gould will quickly onsell Vestar to some other financial services organisation, as it did with Mike Pero Mortgages.

George Gould told Good Returns that "Gould Wealth Management is absolutely a long term investor".

In a letter to clients he says: "There is great potential to develop and grow this business by working to improve both the standard of investment research and the service provided to clients."

"The last 12 months have been extremely difficult for Vestar clients and investors in general; however we see a strong future for the company and are committed to building a successful business for clients and Gould Wealth Management."

Staniland says in the past Vestar had "searched for yield without consideration to risk."

Good Returns has seen the information memorandum relating to the sale of the business. In it Vestar had more than $300 million in finance companies and most of these were now distressed and unrated.

Staniland says Gould is still working on its investment philosophy, but the company will "look for rated investments." He says the strategy is being put together by Richard Austin who was formerly the head of advice at Perpetual Trust.

Staniland expects that Vestar's investment approach will be "unitised" and PIE compliant.

Staniland says a new investment committee is being put together. Currently Staniland, Gould and Austin, plus one unnamed independent person will be included. He says he hasn't talked to Donal Curtin who has been on the committee.

Staniland says that the firm will keep its current Vestar brand.

"We are not going to hide behind a new name," he says.

In terms of personnel; founder Kelvin Symes is returning as an adviser. He will have no management role, nor will he be involved with the investment committee.

He will be engaged "on normal adviser terms", he says.

Simon Purvis is "nominally" the ceo at present, however will return to being an adviser.

Staniland acknowledges some advisers have left the firm, but he also says some who indicated they were leaving have changed their mind.

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