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Goodbye Smith Barney

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It's officially the end of the line for the Smith Barney name. Of course, it was fully expected with news reports going back several months of the name change, which became official today.

Firms come and go but there has to be a bit of nostalgia for Smith Barney. Who (if they are old enough) doesn't remember the old advertising campaign from the late 1970s/early 1980s with the late actor John Houseman with his bowtie and patrician delivery, saying: "They make money the old fashioned way: They earn it."

But Wall Street brokerage firms also evolve. And Smith Barney is no exception. Its beginnings came from the very kind of deal that has led to its name being retired. In 1938, the modern Smith Barney was born, following the merger of two brokerage firms founded by fellow Philadelphians, Charles D. Barney and Edward B. Smith.

Through the years, Smith Barney has been both predator and prey in the acquisition business. It snatched up Harris, Upham & Co. in 1975 to become Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., according to Funding Universe. It was later sold to Primerica Corp. in 1987 which was acquired by firm run by Sanford "Sandy" Weill, who later merged Smith Barney's parent (which was Travelers) with Citicorp. The resulting firm, Citigroup, proved to be the penultimate stop for the Smith Barney name.

After its relatively short run with Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney joins the ranks of other firm names that have gone by the wayside: Paine Webber, E.F. Hutton, Salomon Brothers and so many others. I wonder how many financial advisors who have come up the Smith Barney ranks are proudly recalling that name today?

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