The story behind the blind date merger

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The merger between LJPR Financial Advisors and Sequoia Financial Group can be compared to a blind date gone perfectly right.

Two years ago Leon LaBrecque, CEO of LJPR Financial Advisors, an $800 million advisory firm based in Troy, Michigan, thought he would be buying other RIAs.

Then he met Tom Haught, president of Sequoia, a $4 billion-plus firm based in Akron, Ohio.

The two were introduced by a mutual friend who worked at a custodian who kept saying “you two need to talk to each other,” recalls LaBrecque.

“We had a glass of wine and ended up talking for three hours,” he adds. “It was one of those things where you met somebody and you just think this is going to work.”

“Instantly, we found that we had a lot in common,” says Haught.

After that initial meeting, the two did a couple “home and aways” to get to know each other.

“We both wanted to build firms that would last and outlive us,” says Haught. “But the overwhelming factor was how aligned our company cultures were. I could take any one of his employees and they would fit in at Sequoia and any of my people could easily be LJPR people.”

As the two kept meeting, LaBreque says he told Haught: “If I merged with any firm, it would be yours.”

“Well, why not now?” Haught replied.

This week the firms made it official: LJPR will become a part of Sequoia.

While legally the deal is an acquisition, both LaBrecque and Haught prefer to classify it as a merger. LaBrecque will retain a senior position within Sequoia as chief growth officer, where he will be hunting for other firms to join the company. LaBrecque will also become a major shareholder in Sequoia and most LJPR advisor teams will remain intact as employees of Sequoia.

“We view it as building a new firm under the name Sequoia,” says LaBrecque. “I wanted to have a full strategic partner, wanted to be part of the team, have a meaningful contribution, and have skin in the game.”

The pair says the new Sequoia will be a stronger firm as they’ve combined the best parts each company had to offer.

“LJPR is pretty well known for its content and PR, while, I feel, Sequoia has some of the greatest planners in the businesses,” says LaBrecque.

The executives are especially excited about the heightened scale the company will now have.

They hope the larger size and budget will allow them to invest in greater cutting-edge technology, be a magnet for talented advisors seeking growth opportunities, and build out a deep bench of advisors who specialize in specific niches.

Sequoia will now employ 91 people across Ohio, Michigan and Florida and its assets under management will be just shy of $5 billion.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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