Earlier this year the American-based corporate matchmaker, James Wolfensohn, found a European partner of his own in the form of longterm friend Lord Jacob Rothschild. This autumn the illustrious union is put to the test when their corporate finance venture, J Rothschild, Wolfensohn and Co, opens its doors for business. Its intended niche, explains Clive Gibson, director of St James's Place Capital, Rothschild's holding company, will be broadly similar to that developed by Wolfensohn in the US - that of "providing longer term strategic advice from an unconflicted adviser, while at the same time having the ability to execute the most sophisticated transaction"; in short what he describes as "a return to old-style merchant banking, where there is a real loyalty between adviser and client". For Wolfensohn the venture forms the third branch of what now appears a truly global operation. While his New York-based investment bank, James D Wolfensohn Inc, covers the Americas, a joint venture with the Japanese Fuji Bank operates across the Pacific Rim. The London-based outfit will then cover Western Europe and the emergent market economies to the east, assisting multinationals unfamiliar with the terrain in forging strategic relationships. According to Gibson, J Rothschild, Wolfensohn will be a "natural point of referral for Wolfensohn's contacts in the States as well as a stand-alone operation in Europe". Given the combined credibility and acquaintance of the two partners, together with that of chairman Paul Volcker, finding clients (ideally a "small number of large companies") should not pose a problem. All that remains is to find a suitably-qualified chief executive; "probably a Brit or a German", notes Gibson elusively.
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