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Franklin Matchmaker in $1.5 Trillion Deal Was Legg Mason Adviser

Feb. 20, 2020, 12:00 PM

Chief executives of Legg Mason Inc. and Franklin Resources Inc. began their flirtation at a June dinner at a Manhattan restaurant.

The evening’s matchmaker was Matthew Nicholls, who’d recently joined Franklin and its then-CEO Gregory Johnson as chief financial officer. Nicholls, 47, spent two decades as an investment banker at Citigroup Inc., where, as a deal adviser, he helped close a string of acquisitions after Joseph Sullivan became Legg Mason CEO in 2012.

Matthew Nicholls
Photographer: Franklin Resources

From his unique vantage point, Nicholls had an understanding of both asset managers. Legg Mason was facing scrutiny from activist investor Nelson Peltz, whose ...