Kidder Peabody Name To Vanish -- Venerable Presence Fades After 129 Years

NEW YORK - Another one bites the dust.

Kidder, Peabody & Co., one of Wall Street's longest-running names, will disappear when the investment bank is dismantled later this month.

PaineWebber Group Inc. agreed to acquire most of Kidder's assets in October but wanted to mull over whether it wanted to acquire the Kidder name.

Now, after a six-week "global study" of its retail, banking and institutional clients, PaineWebber has decided that it's time to make the Kidder Peabody name a Wall Street footnote.

"Our research, as well as other considerations, is showing us that PaineWebber is the name to go forward with," said Jerry Johnston, manager of corporate communications. "Now that we are a bigger force internationally, we want to behave as one company, with one voice and one name."

The demise of Kidder will mean the end of a name that has been kicking around Wall Street for nearly 130 years.

Kidder was founded in Boston on April 1, 1865, by Henry Kidder, Francis Peabody and Oliver Peabody. When the firm first opened, it advertised "banking, brokerage and exchange business."

Unlike other Wall Street names, which have gone through various incarnations, the Kidder Peabody name has remained intact throughout the firm's history.

Kidder, long known for its investment-banking prowess, was acquired by General Electric Co. in 1986 and stumbled in a 1980s insider-trading scandal. In the 1990s, Kidder rebuilt itself into a Wall Street juggernaut in mortgage-backed bonds. But last year's sharp rise in interest rates, coupled with a bond-trading scandal, crippled the firm.

Although the Kidder name had cachet in the late 1970s and early '80s, analysts say today it has little, if any, luster.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago, the Kidder name would have made a difference," said Perrin Long, an independent securities-industry analyst. "Kidder was strong in utility underwriting, it had a crackerjack research department, it had high-net-worth retail clients and a very strong investment-banking franchise."

But, by the end of last year, Kidder wasn't a powerful presence in much of anything. Although the firm still laid claim to the No. 1 spot for mortgage-backed underwriting, largely because of a busy first quarter, it finished the year as the seventh-ranked underwriter of stocks and bonds.

Still, to some, the Kidder name isn't completely worthless.

As Kidder has been unwinding its operations in recent weeks, some employees have been quietly walking away with the Kidder Peabody signs that used to adorn each floor of the investment bank.

"It could be a collector's item one day," said one trader who said he planned to pocket a sign.

Kidder is the second Wall Street name to be shelved in less than a year. Last May, Travelers Group, parent of brokerage giant Smith Barney Inc., scrapped the Shearson name after Smith Barney and Shearson's brokerage operations merged.