Nuveen’s former longtime head of municipals John Miller has landed at New York-based First Eagle Investments, where he will oversee the firm’s debut in the municipal bond market.
Miller, 56, is expected to join the firm in January, where he will set up a new muni department that will focus on junk bonds, his specialty at Nuveen.
The announcement comes nearly six months after Miller left Nuveen — ending a 27-year run — the same day the firm announced news of a settlement with Preston Hollow Community Capital that ended a contentious, four-year legal battle in which Miller played a starring role. Nuveen became an investor in Preston Hollow’s direct-lending business following the settlement, which brought to an end Preston Hollow’s legal pursuit of Nuveen and Miller for using what one judge labeled as “lies” and “threats” to damage its access to high-yield business.
Joining Miller at the new firm will be Carl Katerndahl, who was at Nuveen for nearly 22 years before leaving in July 2019 and was most recently senior managing director at investment firm Winnick & Company. As chief operating officer, Katerndahl will oversee day-to-day operations of the high-yield muni team. He will start on Oct. 2.
Miller did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for First Eagle said the firm has been interested in getting into the muni business for a while.
“We consider the unique risk-return characteristics of the asset class to be an important part of the investment toolkit, particularly for the financial advisors we serve,” the spokesperson said. “It’s not often that someone of John’s caliber becomes available. John is an exceptional investor, business builder and team leader.”
Katerndahl will build the “foundation for the business” ahead of Miller’s January arrival, with “the intention of having it fully operational in early 2024,” the spokesperson said.
In addition to Miller and Katerndahl, the team is expected to consist of 10 employees, including credit analysts, traders and product specialists.
Miller, who will report to CEO Mehdi Mahmud, currently remains located in Chicago and Katerndahl is based in California.
As longtime manager of Nuveen’s High Yield Municipal Bond Fund, the market’s largest with about $17 billion in assets, Miller dominated the speculative muni space.
“As I considered my next career challenge, First Eagle really stood out due to its investment-led culture and commitment to active portfolio management rooted in fundamental, bottom-up research,” Miller said in the press release announcing the hire.
First Eagle Investments is a New York-based privately-owned investment management firm with approximately $131 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2023. In 2020, the firm acquired THL Credit, now First Eagle Alternative Credit, and in 2022 it acquired Napier Park Global Capital. It has 606 employees, including 143 investment professionals, across 13 offices, according to its website.