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L.A. investment bank Imperial Capital seeks IPO

October 22, 2009 |  6:00 am

Boutique L.A. investment banking firm Imperial Capital Group Inc. filed Wednesday to go public, hoping to tap investors’ improved appetite for new stock issues.

In a preliminary prospectus, the Century City firm proposed to raise as much as $150 million in a deal that would allow management to cash out a portion of its ownership stake in the firm.

But besides that, and paying off a $10 million credit line, the firm said it hadn’t decided what to do with the money it would raise, other than use it for general corporate purposes.

The IPO market has thawed considerably over the last two months, tempting companies looking to raise capital. Nineteen IPOs have come to market just since Sept. 15, compared with 21 in the prior 8 1/2 months, according to ipohome.com.

Imperiallogo Imperial Capital, co-founded by Jason Reese and Randall Wooster in 1997, had been a unit of Imperial Credit Industries before becoming a standalone business. Imperial Credit, a Southland financial firm spun off from the old Imperial Bancorp (now part of Comerica Inc.), filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003.

Imperial Capital operates banking, trading and research businesses. Its investment banking unit targets middle-market companies. In one recent deal, Imperial advised American Greetings Corp. on its purchase of rival card company Recycled Paper Greetings.

Imperial’s research unit covers companies in businesses including aerospace, clean energy and gaming.

The company says it has been profitable every year since 1999, but it remains a small player. The firm earned $9.6 million in the first half of this year on revenue of $59.4 million.

If the IPO gets done, Reese, the firm’s 44-year-old chief executive, and Wooster, 49, Imperial’s president, would retain voting control of the company via their Class B share holdings.

The preliminary prospectus didn’t list the number of shares to be sold, give an estimated price range or specify how much Reese and Wooster would cash out. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JMP Securities are managing the IPO, along with Imperial.

-- Tom Petruno

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