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Former Top Chemical Banker Snagged by Bear Stearns

Former Chemical Securities Inc. head of public finance Paul Atanasio is to join Bear, Stearns & Co. as part of the first move by a Wall Street firm to pick up the experienced professionals laid off in recent departures of firms from the municipal business.

 

In addition to Atanasio, who was most recently managing director and manager of Chemical's public finance department, Bear Stearns also announced three other hires yesterday.

 

Chemical announced in mid-January that it would shutter its municipal department, eliminating 50 jobs. The news came in the wake of Lazard Freres & Co.'s December decision to severely curtail its municipal operations, eliminating 30 jobs.

 

Daniel L. Keating, senior managing director of Bear Stearns' municipal department, said the firm was content that it had been able to add several qualified professionals that could complement its public finance efforts easily.

 

In addition to Atanasio, the firm hired Alan Hart, formerly a vice president at Goldman, Sachs & Co. as managing director in public finance, David Hack, formerly a vice president at Chemical, as an associate director in public finance, and Gylaine Harrison, another Chemical veteran, to bolster its municipal research staff. Keating said all of the hires weremade individually.

 

"I saw some needs, and there were some very quality people available to fill them," Keating said. "Let's face it, four major firms have left the business during the past year, but the issuers' banking needs aren't going away."

 

While Hart and Hack were hired to fill the firm's need for general public finance bankers, Keating said Atanasio would focus on the firm's relationships with major issuers in New York State.

 

The recent closures come less than a year after three firms - Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp., and CS First Boston - either closed or sharply reduced their municipals staffs, leaving dozens of executives looking for work.

 

But despite the cutbacks, executive placement officers who specialize in the municipals industry said hiring has been going on throughout the period.

 

"A lot of the major regional firms that I work with have been interested in selective expansions," said Richard Baggott, a public finance specialist at Executive Search Placements in Boulder, Colo.

 

"People are concentrating on the sectors of the market - mostly health care and housing - where they think there will be continued strength, and are looking to add people who have a track record of doing good business in those fields," Baggott said.

 

However, Baggott said the market faced by executives looking for work in municipals has weakened since last year, in part because some firms expect more people to become available in the future.

 

"I think firms are keeping their ears to the street, and may be waiting to see if other players decide to get out of the business, freeing up even more talented people," he said.

 

Before taking over as head of Chemical's public finance department when Clarence Otis left to join Darden Restaurants last June, Atanasio was head of the firm's New York group.

 

Atanasio also has strong ties to the state's governmental leadership. In November, 1994, he was one of four municipal bond executives appointed to Gov. George E. Pataki's transition team.

 

Atanasio said he decided to join Bear Stearns after being convinced of the firm's commitment to the municipals industry. He had launched his career at Salomon Brothers Inc., and was forced to seek another position when that firm chose to leave the business in 1987.

 

"After spending a lot of time talking to people at the very highest levels of the firm's senior management, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind about what an integral role municipals played at the firm," Atanasio said.

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