Wilmington Trust Corp. will buy advisory firm Balentine & Co. to expand into Atlanta’s high-net-worth market. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in January, were not disclosed.

Wilmington Trust CEO Ted Cecala said the company would buy 100% of the equity interest and 80% of the profit interest in Balentine, which also has offices in Nashville.

With nearly $4 billion in assets under management, Balentine is one of the largest independent investment advisory firms in the Southeast. Balentine’s clients will gain trust and estate-planning services from a company that specializes in advantageous Delaware trust and tax laws. Wilmington Trust clients will gain access to Balentine’s third-party investment managers.

Robert Balentine, company founder, credited his fee-for-service compensation model for his ability to amass billions of dollars under management in a relatively short 14-year period. "Clients have become more sophisticated," said Balentine, who started in the business as a retail stockbroker. "They understand how fees work and how advice is given."

Balentine will continue as CEO and will be named president of Wilmington Trust of Georgia. Balentine also will be named a member of the senior management team in the private client advisory department at Wilmington Trust. Rodney Wood, who heads the department, and Wilmington Trust Chief Executive Officer Ted Cecala will join Balentine & Co.’s board of directors.

In the last three years, Wilmington Trust has opened more than 50 new offices nationwide, including a presence in Boca Raton, Fla., Santa Monica, Calif., and Morristown, N.J.

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