Jan. 28 --The corporate parent of Russell Investments said the Seattle -based asset management firm could be put up for sale. Milwaukee -based financial company Northwestern Mutual said in a statement late Monday that it is "exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale," for its majority stake in Russell Investments . The statement confirms rumors that surfaced earlier this month, as Reuters reported that a sale was being considered. At the time, both Russell and Northwestern declined to comment. Northwestern indicated the strong growth seen by Russell made it a good time to ponder ways of cashing out of its investment. But a sale or some other change "could take months," the company said. Mergers and acquisitions of asset management firms decreased in recent years, as high market volatility affected valuations. The gradual improvement of the global economy could enable buyers and sellers to more readily agree on an attractive price for both parties. Moreover, the asset management sector is overdue for consolidation, as strict regulations have made costs increase, according to a PwC report. According to information on its website, Russell had nearly $257 billion in assets under management at the end of 2013. That's up from $162 billion at the end of 2012. Ownership of Russell has made Northwestern a sizable player among asset managers: a P&I/ Towers Watson report ranked it as the 54th largest asset management firm worldwide, with $322.5 billion under stewardship at the end of 2012. Earlier this month Russell said it was undertaking major changes in the way it allocates assets across several funds to increase its exposure to equities and higher-yield bonds. The move came as the firm seeks to boost returns amid forecasts of modest global growth this year. A Russell spokesman said that at the firm, it is "business as usual" in the wake of the announcement that the company may be sold. Russell Investments was founded in Tacoma in 1936. Northwestern bought it in 1999, but Russell has been run autonomously since then. In 2010 it moved its headquarters to Seattle . Russell also has offices in New York , London , Paris , Amsterdam , Tokyo and other major financial centers. It employs about 1,800 associates in 21 offices worldwide; about half of those employees are in Seattle . ___ Angel Gonzalez ; 206-464-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org . On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle ___ (c)2014 The Seattle Times Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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