Boutique PJ Solomon doubling down on M&A hires as it considers opening new U.S. office

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Boutique investment bank PJ Solomon is starting to push the boundaries of the word “boutique,” at least in terms of its size. The private U.S. advisory firm has been rapidly adding headcount after entering an agreement with Natixis in 2016 that made the French investment bank a majority owner. Nearly three years after inking the deal, PJ Solomon is looking to push the pedal down even further.

The boutique, formerly known as Peter J. Solomon & Co., has nearly doubled its number of investment bankers over the last two-plus years. It currently employs more than 80 bankers, including 22 managing directors. Chief Executive Marc Cooper said he hopes to double that number yet again over the next two to three years. He also hinted at the possibility of opening a third U.S. office in Chicago or somewhere on the West Coast.

“When we’re talking about expansion, it’s not for geographic sake, but to find great bankers outside of [New York and Houston]” Cooper told eFC. “We will go where they are.”

PJ Solomon’s growth plans were clearly aided by the investment from Natixis, but Cooper pins the company’s recent expansion to the number of new verticals that the bank covers. Once known solely for its retail advisory business, PJ Solomon now covers seven different verticals, including energy, infrastructure and tech, media and telecom (TMT) – the three areas of coverage that Cooper sees as top hiring priorities moving forward.

The firm is actively looking to add senior dealmakers with industry expertise and will then add junior M&A bankers to fill out the teams, Cooper said. The 30-year-old boutique is also looking to add to its restructuring business, though at a slower pace than within its M&A group. Recent notable hires include former Morgan Stanley managing director Jim McGinnis as its head of renewable energy coverage and Michael Gottschalk, a consumer focused MD poached from Rothschild. The firm also recently added Mark Hootnick to its debt advisory and restructuring practice. Hootnick joined in September from fellow boutique Millstein & Co. as an MD and partner.

Some of the firm’s biggest scalps include advising on TPG Capital and Apollo Global Management’s purchase of Harrah's Entertainment and Google’s acquisition of restaurant guide Zagat. It also represented Lands’ End in its sale to Sears and Office Depot in its merger with OfficeMax.

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