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Cohen Brothers, LLC Hires New Chief Executive Officer.

NEW YORK -- Chris Ricciardi, former Merrill Lynch Managing Director and Head of Global Structured Credit Products, has joined Cohen Brothers, LLC ("Cohen Brothers") as Chief Executive Officer.

Cohen Brothers is a privately-owned investment firm which specializes in the financing of small and mid-sized companies through collateralized debt obligation ("CDO") securitizations. With approximately $10 billion in assets under management, Cohen Brothers, through its subsidiaries is one of the largest CDO managers (ranked number two in 2005) and by far the largest manager of direct financing CDOs (also known as "trust preferred' CDOs). They also manage CDOs backed by asset-backed securities ("ABS") and CLO transactions financing middle market leveraged loans.

In its main business line, Cohen Brothers offers trust preferred financing (a type of hybrid capital) to small and mid-sized financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, REITs, private real estate companies, and specialty finance companies). These securities are then pooled and financed in CDOs. The CDO market is one of the fastest growing of all the debt markets. Over $200 billion of new CDOs were issued in 2005 alone.

Cohen Brothers was founded by Daniel Cohen in 2000 and has grown dramatically since then to become a dominant player in the CDO market. Daniel Cohen was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and will retain the title of Chairman after the arrival of Mr. Ricciardi. Mr. Cohen has extensive experience in financial institutions. He has been chairman of The Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq: TBBK) since 2000, has served as chief operating officer of Resource America Inc., (Nasdaq: REXI) a publicly traded asset management company, and was a director of Jefferson Bank of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ricciardi has been at the front of every major trend in the modern CDO market. In 1999, while Head of CDO banking at Prudential Securities, he was part of a team that created the first CDO backed by ABS. At the time only corporate (mostly high yield) assets were found in CDOs. ABS CDOs rapidly became the most popular type of CDO ultimately accounting for more volume than any other CDO product.

In 2000, Mr. Ricciardi and several members of his team moved to CSFB where he became the Head of U.S. Structured Credit Products. From 2000 to 2003, CSFB ruled the CDO league tables consistently as the number one underwriter. Many attribute their success to their dominance in ABS CDOs - the product Mr. Ricciardi and team pioneered at Prudential.

It was at CSFB that Mr. Ricciardi and team first met Daniel Cohen and the Cohen Brothers team. Together, they created what at the time was the first Bank Trust Preferred CDO to be managed by a third party manager. This concept proved to be quite popular as witnessed by the subsequent success of the Cohen Brothers program.

One of the most successful and creative new products created by Cohen Brothers was the REIT trust preferred CDO. This product, known as Taberna, was underwritten by Merrill and managed by a Cohen Bros affiliate. It proved to be very popular and reached $3.2 billion in new issuance volume in 2005.

In 2003, Mr. Ricciardi and his team moved to Merrill Lynch. By the end of 2002, Merrill was a minor player in the CDO market with a 3% market share and a number 14 league table position. By the end of 2003, Merrill had taken the number one Global CDO Underwriter position with a 14% market share (a position they have held ever since). Merrill held its leadership position by constantly innovating and correctly predicting the growth of certain key products.

The achievements of Mr. Ricciardi and the Merrill CDO Team have been widely acknowledged in the CDO market. In 2005, Merrill was recognized by International Financial Review (IFR) as their 2005 CDO House of the Year.

Mr. Ricciardi has also been active in the industry associations. He was a founding Co-Chairman of the CDO Committee of the Bond Market Association (BMA). In that role he strongly advocated more transparency in the CDO market. Ultimately this resulted in the formation by the BMA of the "CDO Library". The CDO Library is a website containing information about CDO transactions and is open to all qualified investors or dealers. This and other initiatives have led to greater transparency and liquidity in the CDO market.

Joining Mr. Ricciardi at Cohen Brothers are several key long-time members of his team. Lars Norell who has been working with Mr. Ricciardi since 2000 at CSFB joins as a Managing Director responsible for capital markets. At Merrill, Mr. Norell was the Co-Head of U.S. Structured Credit Products reporting to Mr. Ricciardi. Mr. Norell oversaw some of the largest Merrill CDO products including trust preferred CDOs, Mezzanine ABS CDOs, and CLOs.

Steve D'Agostino will join as the Head of CDO Technology and Analytics - a position he held both at Merrill and previously at CSFB. Mr. D'Agostino is widely recognized as one of the leading technical professionals in the CDO market. He has been responsible for building the models needed in the complex structuring and analysis of CDOs.

Also joining Cohen Bros will be Julie Cutler, Josh Polsinelli, and Peter Grimm.

Separately, Plamen Mitrikov will be joining Taberna Realty Finance Trust, a REIT run by Daniel Cohen. At Merrill, Mitrikov was responsible for running the trust preferred CDO product. Taberna is an internally managed REIT which specializes in the financing of other REITs and real estate companies. Mitrikov first met Ricciardi and team at Prudential Securities subsequently moving to CSFB and then to Merrill in 2003.

The new team will be joining a team from Cohen Brothers that they know well, having been their primary investment banker for years. In addition to Daniel Cohen, Chairman, key members of the Cohen Bros team also include James J. McEntee, III, Chief Operating Officer. Mr. McEntee has been responsible for overseeing the build-out of the company's key business lines, focusing on the primary business of financing small and mid-sized companies through CDOs. Mr. McEntee's background is as an attorney and as a founding partner of a private equity firm. He also serves as a director of The Bancorp, Inc. and as a trustee of Taberna Realty Finance Trust.

Shami Patel, Managing Director, is responsible for the Trust Preferred Securities business which focuses on lending to small and mid-sized banks and insurance companies. This business has been the marquee product line for Cohen Brothers and a market that the company has dominated recently.

Kevin Braddish, Managing Director, runs the business of lending to middle market companies and securitizing these loans through CLOs. Kevin and his team joined from PB Capital in March of 2005.

Alex Cigolle, Managing Director, is responsible for the Asset Backed Securities business. Alex joined Cohen Bros. in September, 2004 from Delaware Investments.

With the new hires, Cohen Brothers plans to expand in several ways. They plan to continue their dominance in the management of trust preferred CDOs. They also plan to expand their ABS CDO management business. Cohen Brothers aspires to be the top CDO manager as well as the top CDO investor.

For further information contact Sheila Chambliss at 215-861-7824 or schambliss@cohen-bros.com.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Feb 27, 2006
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