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Companies vie for Strong Capital assets

About a dozen companies have signaled their intention to bid for the assets of Strong Capital Management with the highest bid indicated at about $900 million, a newspaper reported Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

About a dozen companies have signaled their intention to bid for the assets of Strong Capital Management with the highest bid indicated at about $900 million, a newspaper reported Friday.

The New York Times, quoting those it described as executives close to the auction, said the potential buyers included Bank One, Lehman Brothers, the Wachovia Corp., KeyCorp, Wells Fargo & Co. and New York Life Insurance Co.

The newspaper said those firms submitted "expressions of interest" late Wednesday night to Goldman Sachs, which is managing the auction for Strong.

Strong spokesman Drew Wineland, Goldman Sachs spokeswoman Andrea Rachman, Bank One spokesman Tom Kelly and Wachovia spokeswoman Christy Phillips declined comment on the newspaper report. Spokespeople at Lehman Brothers, KeyCorp, Wells Fargo and New York Life did not immediately return calls Friday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Company founder Richard Strong and Strong Capital's parent Strong Financial Corp. of suburban Menomonee Falls-based are under investigation for alleged improper fund trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Each suitor proposed a price range it would be prepared to pay, the newspaper quoted the executives as saying. It said the most any suitor offered was about $900 million, which it said was slightly less than the $1 billion goal the company set at the beginning of the process.

The Times said that, according to the executives close to the auction, Strong Capital is planning to trim the list of suitors and begin a round of binding bids as soon as next week.