Seymour Pierce deal is in doubt

SEYMOUR Pierce’s transatlantic merger with Gerova Financial Group could fall through this week as Seymour Pierce’s outspoken chairman Keith Harris demands clarification on issues plaguing the New York-listed reinsurer.

The failure of the planned three-way merger would be an embarrassment for investment bank Seymour Pierce, which is handling its own £60m takeover by Gerova.

It is understood that Harris was blind-sided by personnel changes at Gerova last week, when its incoming chairman Dennis Pelino quit in a shock move that has contributed to a plunge in the firm’s share price.

The firm cited an inability “to reach agreement on the terms of his appointment” as the reason for Pelino walking out on the role: its stock has since dropped 51.6 per cent, or $6.05.

Harris also wants clarification on issues relating to Gerova’s asset base and the overhaul of its board, several of whom quit when Pelino’s appointment was announced.

Gerova, which was turned from a special investment vehicle into a financial services firm just over a year ago, has in the past been queried by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over its disclosure of asset values, though no action was taken.

Even if the deal with Gerova falls through, however, Harris is likely to press ahead with plans to merge with US firm Ticonderoga Securities, headed by Joel Plasco, former chief executive of Collins Stewart.

The Gerova deal was to form part of a three-way merger with Plasco’s firm, with the resulting entity to be branded Seymour Pierce and to take up Gerova’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Seymour Pierce declined to comment.