Announcement of brokerage sale could come at any time

(WMC-TV) - It is an iconic symbol of the Downtown Memphis skyline, but the inner workings of Regions Morgan Keegan do not reflect the strength of it's towering downtown home.

Bloomberg News is reporting that Stifel Financial Corporation is in exclusive talks to buy Regions Financial Corporation's Morgan Keegan brokerage. According to insiders, the announcement of the sale could come at any time.

At the University of Memphis College of Business and Economics, Dr. John Gnuschke says Memphis cannot afford to lose the financial powerhouse and the jobs it's provides.

"If they can provide the same set of services with their current employees, then they may not need Morgan Keegan's employees," he said.

Rumors of the sale began circulating in June after Morgan Keegan agreed to pay a $210 million settlement in a massive class action fraud case.

"Selling off an asset is what you do when you need to raise capital, so it's a logical kind of thing to do," Gnuschke said.

There's no guarantee that Stifel would retain the Memphis office or keep any of Morgan Keegan's current staff.

"If they are, in fact, moved to St. Louis or they are moved to some other community, we are going to lose Morgan Keegan as an economic engine for this city," Gnuschke said.

According to Bloomberg's sources, anywhere from 500 to 900 jobs could be lost within the company, which currently employs just over 1,000 people.

Gnuschke says there are so few companies like Morgan Keegan that it will be difficult to lure a similar business to Memphis, and if the employee base is lost, it will probably be gone forever.

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