James S. Cassel and Scott E. Salpeter are leaving Ladenburg Thalmann to start up their own investment bank catering to private and publicly-traded middle market companies.

That new firm will be called Cassel Salpeter and it will be based in Miami. The two professionals have been with Ladenberg Thalmann for three years; they sold their advisory firm Capitalink to Ladenberg in 2007.

“We had a great run at Ladenburg, but leading a boutique investment banking firm is much closer to our roots and better allows us to provide independent, unbiased advisory services that leverage our knowledge, experience, and extensive contacts on behalf of our clients,” Cassel, chairman of the new venture, said in a press release.  

Salpeter, the president of the new venture, adds that he and Cassel “have a huge network of professional advisors – lawyers, accountants, private equity firms, and fellow investment bankers – who have seen us in action and who respect the good work we do.”  

In a telephone interview, Cassel said his new venture won’t be competing head-on with Ladenberg because its primary focus won’t be raising capital.  They will be advising mergers and acquisitions and offering fairness opinions as well as corporate restructuring.

Cassel said he has a good relationship with Ladenburg, which he said has “great potential.”

Just last week, Ladenburg reached an agreement to raise $14 million through a private placement with Taiwanese businessman Dr. Samuel Yin to finance its expansion in Asia.

 “For me, it’s a cultural thing; I’m going back to my roots, I enjoyed building the firm and what I did with Capitalink for eight and a half years before we sold it,” said Cassel. He adds that at Ladenburg, “I was spending more time on management, and I missed and I will enjoy executing as we build Cassel here.”

Cassel Salpeter's chairman said he doesn’t plans to grow his new firm to “anywhere near the size of Ladenburg,” and so should spend substantially less time on management and more on the “fun” things he enjoys.

Cassel, who left Ladenburg at the end of last year, said he doesn’t have a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement with the firm.

While Cassel Salpeter won’t be large, Cassel said it will have a national presence, much like Capitalink, which did some 80% of its business with companies outside of Florida.

Like Capitalink, the new company will work with a “broad brush” of industries, including restaurants, shipping, manufacturing, distribution and financial companies, but not real estate or oil, gas and minerals. And like its predecessor, the new company will also do some work with distressed companies, Cassel said.

In addition Cassel and Salpeter, two other Ladenburg alumni have joined the start-up: Marcus Wai as vice president and Chris Mansueto as an associate.