Hot-shot tech banker is back

The Baltimore Sun

SAN FRANCISCO -- Five years after walking away from his successful investment banking career to defend himself against criminal charges stemming from the collapse of Internet stocks, Frank P. Quattrone is returning to the role he most relishes: as a counselor to high-tech companies.

The news came about seven months after a federal judge approved a request by prosecutors to dismiss all remaining charges against Quattrone, formally clearing the way for his return to Wall Street.

"The opera is over," he said at the time, referring to the travails of his conviction - later reversed - on charges of hindering a government investigation into initial public offerings at Credit Suisse.

The dismissal paved the way for Quattrone's return to public life this week, when he opened Qatalyst Group, a boutique investment bank in San Francisco.

"I really missed the opportunity to advise clients I know well and trust, in the industry that I have lived and breathed for the past 25 years," said Quattrone, 52, who helped steward the companies that powered Silicon Valley, including Amazon Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Netscape Communications Corp.

Qatalyst is expected to be received with open arms in Silicon Valley. The company already has high-profile backers that include Google Inc. chief executive Eric E. Schmidt and Intuit Chairman William V. Campbell, who said: "I think I speak for Silicon Valley when I say that the valley is a better place with Frank in it."

One of the first bankers to recognize the promise of Silicon Valley when his New York brethren still considered it a backwater, Quattrone became a legend for his industry knowledge and connections, friends say.

"He was the guy who arrived at your office carrying a canvas bag filled with 400 pages of analyst reports and scruffy notes, wearing his baseball cap askew, just off the red eye from New York," said Dave Roux, co-founder of private equity company Silver Lake Partners. "He would go digging through his stuff and would know what all your competitors were doing. He would come up with just the right thing."

Quattrone is getting back in the game as technology mergers and acquisitions have more than doubled since 2003, to $206 billion in 2007, according to Dealogic. Corporate executives and boards are increasingly seeking seasoned, independent advice to navigate economic shoals.

"It's great to see him back," said tech pioneer Marc Andreessen, who co-founded Netscape and is now working on social networking site Ning. "There's a huge opportunity for his new firm."

Quattrone, who grew up in South Philadelphia, set out to learn the high-tech industry after earning his master's in business administration from Stanford University. He became known for attracting top talent, moving his high-powered team from bank to bank, ultimately landing at Credit Suisse in 1998.

He may have been a big-name banker, but he was never a suit, friends say. He won over people with his rendition of the Beatles song "Rocky Raccoon."

During the bull market of the late 1990s and early 2000s, he oversaw more initial public offerings than any other banker, helping launch the fortunes of Silicon Valley companies and showering his team with riches. In 2000, he earned $120 million.

Supporters say that preternatural success made him the target of a government crackdown that followed the bursting of the dot-com bubble.

Jessica Guynn writes for the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times also contributed to this article.

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