Business

Mariner Holdings in Overland Park seeks buyer for its largest investment business

Martin Bicknell heads Mariner Holdings, an Overland Park-based firm that seeks a buyer for its stake in Tortoise Investments, based in Leawood. Bicknell said diversification of Mariner’s business was one reason for trying to sell Tortoise, which makes up roughly half of the firm’s $40 billion in total assets.
Martin Bicknell heads Mariner Holdings, an Overland Park-based firm that seeks a buyer for its stake in Tortoise Investments, based in Leawood. Bicknell said diversification of Mariner’s business was one reason for trying to sell Tortoise, which makes up roughly half of the firm’s $40 billion in total assets. File photo

Mariner Holdings, the $40 billion Overland Park-based asset and wealth management firm, is trying to sell its majority stake in Tortoise Investments, its largest investment operation.

Tortoise, based in Leawood, issued a news release that said both firms had “decided to explore strategic alternatives for Mariner’s majority stake in Tortoise.”

Tortoise advises clients on more than $20 billion in assets, roughly half of the total under the Mariner name.

Martin Bicknell, CEO and president of Mariner Holdings, said Tortoise has been an outsized part of the group since it was acquired in 2009 but that diversification of Mariner Holdings’ business was one motive for seeking a buyer.

Likely buyers also would almost certainly be larger than Mariner Holdings, he said.

“The impact we can have on them and for them is reduced” by the dominant size of Tortoise, Bicknell said.

Tortoise CEO Kevin Birzer said the company’s need for investment capital to expand its offerings drives its interest in finding new owners.

“Our business has gotten more expensive,” Birzer said, particularly in providing the first dollars to go into a new investment offering.

“If we want to launch a new fund these days, to get people to pay attention to it, we really should have $50 maybe $100 million in a new fund, and that’s a lot of money to get,” Birzer said.

Birzer said Tortoise’s team has lots of ideas for such venture. Tortoise also would like capital for potential small acquisitions of other firms.

About $16 billion of the money Tortoise handles for investors is in energy-related investments, a business that operates as Tortoise Capital Advisors.

Although slumping energy prices have hurt energy investments, Bicknell said Tortoise’s business is at “all-time highs” for assets, revenues and profits.

Tortoise Investments also has a fixed-income investments firm called Tortoise Credit Strategies, which it acquired as Bradford & Marzec. It also has started an exchange-traded funds business.

Mariner Holdings oversees 28 separate investment firms and other businesses, including Palmer Square Capital Management in Mission Woods and Flyover Capital in Overland Park.

The firm’s partnership with Tortoise began in 2009.

Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, @mdkcstar

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