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Los Angeles Business Journal :: February 22, 2010

Special Report — Who’s Who in Banking

By Richard Clough

Wall Street has been a house of horrors over the past few years, with the largest investment banks — the so-called bulge bracket — laying off tens of thousands or even going out of business. That has made things rough for L.A.’s nascent investment banking industry. As one local banker put it, “Whenever there’s a personnel cutback in finance, it is often easiest to cut the L.A. people.” But at the same time, smaller local firms — from modest boutiques to emerging international players — have found opportunities in the chaos to add top-shelf talent and pick up new clients from the shrinking big banks. The Business Journal has rounded up some of the most prominent L.A. bankers reshaping the local investment banking industry.

Among the featured dozen bankers profiled by LABJ was William K. Doyle, Managing Partner of Kerlin Capital Group, LLC. The article on Mr. Doyle follows:

Smaller Operator Feasts On Big Rivals’ Failures

Bill Doyle did not shed a tear for the big investment banks when they ran into trouble.

In fact, their pain has been his firm’s gain.

Kerlin Capital Group, a small downtown L.A. investment banking firm Doyle founded in 1994, has been able to pick up business as larger firms have laid off bankers, pulled out of Los Angeles or completely closed up shop.

“That kind of chaos is frankly good for someone like us because if they had traditional relationships that they had been working on for years, those are gone and the clients are out looking for new relationships,” he said.

Indeed, the firm recently completed one of its largest transactions when it represented Carlton Forge Works, an aerospace manufacturer in Paramount, in its $850 million sale to a Portland, Ore., company.

What’s more, Kerlin, which specializes in advising on mergers and acquisitions, has expanded its business lines as clients’ needs have grown. The firm now helps arrange financing for clients who are having trouble raising capital.

Doyle, who spent the first two decades of his career at big firms, knows a thing or two about competing with the bulge bracket.

After graduating with an economics degree from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, he joined Lehman Bros. in New York in 1972 where he cut his teeth as an associate in the investment banking division.

In 1976, the native Angeleno returned to Southern California to assist in the firm’s West Coast expansion. As managing director of the L.A. office, Doyle was one of the firm’s senior bankers in the Western United States before he left in 1985 to found the West Coast investment banking group for Bankers Trust.

After two years, Doyle became head of West Coast investment banking for Prudential Capital Funding. Then, in 1991, he moved to Smith Barney to handle its local investment banking operations. He founded Kerlin because there were a number of small and midsize companies in Los Angeles that he felt were being neglected by the large firms.

Kerlin has remained small for most of its existence, but Doyle said he is seeing opportunities in the growing L.A. market as larger firms struggle.

“Many companies have pulled back from their regional Los Angeles office,” he said. “They’re using San Francisco or eliminated it all together – or they’ve eliminated people.”

Still, while Kerlin arranged a nearly $1 billion sale in a difficult deal-making environment, Doyle still has fairly modest expectations for his firm.

“Doing a $200 million sale assignment is a wonderful deal for us,” he said.