Citigroup Inc. retail banker Michael Eck recently moved to rival Morgan Stanley, where he takes on the newly created position of head of retail investment banking. Sources say that Eck, 45, left Citi to ramp up Morgan Stanley's retail business. Despite the ongoing credit crunch, he plans to add bankers to Morgan Stanley's retail group.
Eck left Citi with a solid client roster including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Saks Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. He also left with his banking sidekick Ian Sugarman, who takes on the newly created job of executive director. Sugarman, 37, spent the last eight years in Citi's M&A and consumer groups, where he worked closely with Eck on deals including advising Payless ShoeSource Inc.'s $898 million purchase of Stride Rite Corp., representing buyout shop Istithmar PJSC on its acquisition of Barneys New York in 2007, and advising Sun Capital Securities Group LLC on its $762 million acquisition of apparel marketer Kellwood Co. earlier this year. Sugarman was a corporate attorney at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP before he went into banking.
Eck will report to Morgan Stanley's head of investment banking, Paul Taubman.
Morgan Stanley's retail group recently advised Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. in its joint acquisition, with PepsiCo, of Russian juice company JSC Lebedyansky, and Procter & Gamble Co. in its divestiture of Folgers in a tax-free merger with J.M. Smucker Co.
Citi has no immediate plans to fill the vacancies. "We have a very strong team, so we haven't had to replace them," says a source.
Eck joined Citi in 1993, starting the global consumer investment banking group. He rose from head of the retail division to chairman of the global consumer group. At Citi his major deals include advising grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. on its $565 million purchase of peer Wild Oats Markets Inc., and restaurant chain Applebee's International Inc. when it was snapped up by IHOP Corp. in 2007 for $2.1 billion.
Eck earned his M.B.A. at Northwestern University, then worked in corporate lending at First Union Corp. before moving to Credit Suisse First Boston, where he headed the retail group. Eck is an avid triathloner and has competed in the Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco and the New York City Triathlon.
To be sure, he remains realistic as he builds out the retail business. "The sector outlook is difficult, given the macroeconomic environment," he says. "Management teams are focused on inventory and cost controls and slowing growth. I wouldn't expect much to change until there are clearly improved expectations in the macro environment, which is more likely to take place sometime in 2009."