TCW agrees to split off Crescent Capital Group

A group of money managers within TCW Group Inc. said Tuesday that they reached a deal with the Los Angeles company to split off their $11.5-billion operation.

The agreement, which had been expected, will reestablish Crescent Capital Group as a stand-alone investment firm that provides debt financing to public and private companies.

Crescent was co-founded in 1991 by Mark Attanasio and two other former executives of junk bond giant Drexel Burnham Lambert, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990. TCW bought Crescent in 1995.

Attanasio, 52, said he and other members of his unit had been mulling over the idea of going out on their own for some time, predating the recent turmoil at TCW. The parent company, which manages $110 billion in all, fired its chief investment officer, Jeffrey Gundlach, in December after an internal power struggle.

Attanasio, who also is the principal owner of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, said younger staffers on his TCW team of 75 people were encouraging him to take the business independent. “They said they find the idea of being part of a boutique firm exciting,” he said.

The group raises funds from big investors to create and manage portfolios of high-yield corporate debt, including bonds and bank loans. Attanasio said he saw strong growth potential for the business, given the still-tight credit conditions that many companies face. “There’s a scarcity of capital right now,” he said.

TCW and Crescent will continue to share management fees on existing portfolios. TCW Chief Executive Marc Stern, who said the separation was amicable, said TCW and Crescent would “work together on behalf of our clients.”