Boutique PJT Partners adding headcount to its new activist defense unit

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PJT activist defense

Activist defense has quietly become a bigger source of revenue for investment banks over the last few years as corporations are looking for help dealing with public campaigns from the likes of Bill Ackman, Carl Icahn and Daniel Loeb. Boutiques such as Evercore and Moelis have been particularly active as the business fits well within pure advisory shops. It made sense, then, when rival boutique PJT Partners purchased activist defense and shareholder engagement firm CamberView back in August. With the deal now closed, PJT is looking to add more experienced bankers to the Camberview team.

The boutique has just 13 openings on its career page; six are for its PJT CamberView business unit. They are looking for analysts, associates and directors in both San Francisco and New York. That’s quite a bit of growth potential considering CamberView had only 40 employees when PJT bought the firm. Sources told Reuters at the time that the boutique planned on keeping CamberView's staff fully intact, so it’s likely these are new positions and not backfills. PJT Partners agreed to pay $165 million for the six-year old firm. The deal closed in early October.

For associate and director roles, PJT CamberView is looking for candidates with previous experience dealing with corporate governance matters. Analysts need at least a year working in management consulting, M&A or other strategic advisory positions. The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for details on its hiring plans.

The demand is far from surprising considering the current landscape. Nearly 150 new activists campaigns were launched during the first half of 2018, up 75% from the previous year, according to Reuters. Moelis just hired two senior executives to its activist team last week. In August, Jefferies poached Chris Young, the head of Credit Suisse’s high-profile activist defense team. Lazard made a number of similar hires earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, the 40 or so CamberView employees can only hope that PJT shares the wealth with them as it does its M&A bankers. The boutique maintained a massive 73.6% compensation-to-revenue ratio through the first nine months of the year, more than 13 percentage points higher than at Evercore. Assuming a strong fourth quarter performance, the average PJT employee may take home just shy of $750k for the year.

Camberview is still led by its founder, Abe Friedman, who was made partner at PJT following the acquisition. The firm also recently hired Anne Sheehan, former director of corporate governance at CalSTRS, as a senior advisor.

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