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Here’s the Real Story of JPMorgan’s M&A Unit Shakeup

JP Morgan Chase
CNBC.com
JP Morgan Chase

JPMorgan is shaking up its mergers and acquisitions business.

Jimmy Elliott, who has been running JPMorgan’s M&A unit for more than five years, will step aside. The M&A business will be run by JPMorgan’s Chris Ventresca and Jim Woolery, currently the head of the corporate department at Cravath, Swain & Moore.

Elliott will remain at the firm as relationship guy, brought in to work with the most important clients and the biggest deals.

But responsibility for day to day operations and staffing will rest with Ventresca and Woolery.

None of this is apparent from JPMorgan’s press release. Like most of these things, it is nearly incomprehensible. Everyone, it seems, is getting a promotion. Clients will be better serviced. Business will be grown.

Part of the confusion comes from the odd structure of JPMorgan’s M&A group. It was officially run with Elliott in the top slot, as Global Head of M&A. Underneath Elliott were Ventresca and Jeff Stute, officially the co-heads of North America M&A.

What has happened is that Elliott’s old job has been eliminated, and he has become chairman of M&A. Chairman is what they call you when you’re too important to be allowed to retire but don’t really want to run things day-to-day anymore.

The other thing that happened is that Stute is being replaced by Woolery, who will now work alongside Ventresca running the place.

So what happens to Stute? He’s becoming the head of JPMorgan’s North America Healthcare group. While my initial reaction was to think of this as indicating Stute had been passed over for the top job in M&A, I'm told that this is a step up for Stute. He's no longer reporting to the M&A group. He's now directly under the global heads of investment banking. What's more, he's been elevated to the investment banking group's managing committee. So, maybe it is promotions all around.

Woolery’s well-known to the M&A folks at JPMorgan, having worked on many JP Morgan deals. He is following in the footsteps of Rob Kindler, the Cravath partner who took over JP Morgan’s M&A business in 2000. Kindler left JPMorgan to go to Morgan Stanley in 2006.

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