Shares of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. fell sharply Monday as an analyst downgraded its shares, saying they’re overvalued.
Analyst Ty Govatos of C.L. King and Associates downgraded the Chicago company to “Neutral” from “Buy.”
He said in a note to clients that he initially rated the shares a “Buy” after Heidrick & Struggles’ first-quarter $18.9 million loss led to a decline in its share price from more than $23 to less than $17.
Heidrick & Struggles and staffing company Korn/Ferry International lagged the market, with Heidrick’s total enterprise value selling at a discount to Korn/Ferry, Govatos said.
The gap in share value between Heidrick & Struggles and Korn/Ferry has been eliminated, with Heidrick & Struggles closing at $26.31 Friday and Korn/Ferry ending the day at $14.95.
“We still believe the longer-term outlook for Heidrick & Struggles and the search companies is good, but over the shorter term the price of Heidrick & Struggles seems to have run ahead of itself,” Govatos said.
Shares of Heidrick & Struggles fell $1.87, or 7.1 percent, to $24.44 in afternoon trading.
Shares of Korn/Ferry rose 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $15.
BlackRock chief Larry Fink and a pair of banking execs with banged-up reputations were on a short list of candidates to succeed Morgan Stanley's John Mack, sources told The Post.
Fink, considered the new king of Wall Street after his recent joint venture with Barclays Capital's asset-management unit, was one of several Wall Street giants put on a list of possible successors compiled by executive-search firm Spencer Stuart as Morgan Stanley began putting in place a succession plan for Mack.
Also on that list were former Wachovia CEO Bob Steele and former Merrill Lynch boss John Thain, both of whom have seen their reputations damaged as each of their firms have fallen into the arms of other banks.
Anshu Jain, head of Deutsche Bank's global markets and heir apparent to CEO Josef Ackermann, also was a candidate.
Morgan Stanley's board never formally reached out to any of the candidates, favoring instead to choose co-President James Gorman, who runs Morgan Stanley's massive asset-management shop. Gorman assumes the CEO post Jan. 1. Mack will remain chairman.
A former Goldman managing director and NYSE chief who is frequently called "I, Robot" because of his stiff style, Thain was ousted by Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis after the completion of BofA's shotgun marriage to Merrill. Some discount the notion that Thain had a real shot at the Morgan Stanley CEO post, while others believe the hits that Lewis has sustained over his role in the Merrill merger have improved Thain's image.
Meanwhile, Steele watched Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shut down Wachovia and hand the keys to the troubled bank over to Wells Fargo as a wave of depositor withdrawals overwhelmed the Charlotte, NC-based institution last year.
By MARK DeCAMBRE
NEW YORK POST