HD Vest Sold for $580M to Web Firm

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HD Vest Financial Services, one of the few broker-dealers that specialize in tax issues and works to recruit CPAs to become CFPs, is being acquired by Blucora, the onetime Internet giant known as InfoSpace.

HD Vest will complement TaxAct, an online tax-preparation service Blucora bought in 2012. The idea is that, going forward, Blucora will have a steadier, more predictable business model as Blucora’s tax advisors look to sell investment products to the roughly 25,000 people who use TaxAct.

HD Vest – which placed 21st in this year’s FP50 list of the nation’s largest independent broker-dealers with nearly $305 million in revenue – has a network of more than 4,500 investment reps with more than $36 billion in assets under management. The firm is the largest of the three biggest broker-dealers that help CPAs become registered as investment advisers; the other two are 1st Global and Cetera Financial Specialists, a subsidiary of Cetera Financial Group.

“We are excited to become part of Blucora,” said HD Vest CEO Roger Ochs, who will continue to serve in that role. “Through this transaction, HD Vest is entering the next phase of its evolution under a parent company that understands our distinct vision of empowering independent financial advisors with a tax professional background,” Ochs added in a statement. “With Blucora, we have found a partner who recognizes the value-creating potential in our size, scale and robust growth prospects, and who will provide HD Vest the advantages of operating within a financially strong parent company and a strategically aligned business in TaxAct."

The deal brings together two companies with tangled histories looking for makeovers. It creates an exit for Parthenon Capital Partners, Lovell Minnick and Fisher Lynch Capital, the investment firms that bought Irving, Texas-based HD Vest in 2011 from Wells Fargo, which acquired the company a decade earlier.

The transaction also enables Bellevue, Wash.-based Blucora – whose market value briefly peaked at more than $30 billion in 2000 – to double down on tax-prep services and shift further away from online search and content services. To that end, Blucora will sell its InfoSpace and Monoprice units and use the proceeds to pay down debt.

“This is a transformative acquisition,” Blucora CEO Bill Ruckelshaus said in a statement. The shift in strategy means Ruckelshaus – a former tech banker with Credit Suisse who also did a stint at Expedia – will resign as soon a successor is found.

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