Amroc Investments closed down Tuesday after a 10-year run, as founder Marc Lasry said he wants to focus on his other business, Avenue Asset Management. "It was a matter of allocation of time," he said. "[Shutting down Amroc] allows me to manage more capital." Lasry said the "bittersweet and gut-wrenching" decision to shut down the distressed debt brokerage came a little more than a week ago.
Avenue Asset had closed a $600 million institutional fund nearly three weeks ago, making the business' net worth jump to approximately $1 billion. Lasry said he knew at that point that he could no longer effectively manage both businesses. "Running a $400 million business is one thing. Running a $1 billion business is something else entirely," he said. "When so much of my net worth is tied up in [Avenue Asset], it's natural for me to focus on it." Lasry said he's been inundated with calls from people theorizing on why he'd shut down Amroc, the timing on which mystifies some due to a particularly active distressed market. "People have all these theories as to why, why, why. What's so difficult to understand about this?" he said. He denied that the decision was based on Amroc's profitability, saying that the business had shown a good return.
When asked if his 50-member staff at Amroc will be repositioned, Lasry replied, "With the distressed market being the way it is, they won't have any trouble finding other jobs." Dealers at other firms said there were rumors last weekend that Amroc would be shut down. Lasry never considered putting Amroc under the management of another because so much of his own name was tied up in the operations. "There still would've been the perception that I was involved in Amroc," he said.
Traders agreed that distressed dealers are in demand right now, with UBS Warburg being one desk that's recruiting. "Obviously the overall outlook is negative, but the one bright spot of the year has been distressed land, so [Amroc's staff] should land on their feet," said one. "Almost every distressed desk has done more volume of work this year than last, with all the defaults, so they're in growth mode."