Northwestern Mutual Life wants to sell Russell Investments

Reuters and News Tribune staff reportsJanuary 7, 2014 

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance is exploring a possible sale of its Russell Investments asset management business, which has $247 billion in assets under management, according to four people familiar with the situation.

The Milwaukee-based insurer is discussing selling the Russell subsidiary because it has decided it is not a core part of its business, the people said.

All of the sources wished to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media.

A Northwestern Mutual spokeswoman declined to comment.

Seattle-based Russell provides pension consulting, investment management, transition management services and indexes.

The company was founded in Tacoma in 1936. Northwestern Mutual Life bought it in 1999. The parent company then moved Russell to Seattle in 2010. At that time, several current and former Russell employees believed that Northwestern Mutual Life made that move to better position the company to be sold. Those employees believed such a sale would happen within five years of the Seattle move.

If the firm does decide to run a sales process, it is unclear if it will sell the entire business at once or break it up, two of the sources said.

Northwestern Mutual Life bought the Seattle office building Russell occupies in 2009 from the ashes of Washington Mutual's collapse. The life insurance giant paid $115 million for it then. It sold the tower in 2012 for $480 million.

It could not be determined how much Northwestern would receive if it decides to sell the firm. Northwestern bought Russell, which was then called Frank Russell Company, for $1.2 billion.

News Tribune staff writer Kathleen Cooper contributed to this report.

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