Legg Mason, Inc. (NYSE:LM) has announced the installation of a new Chief Executive Officer. The asset manager announced that Joseph A. Sullivan would take the position of the head of the company, after years of poor performance and sluggish returns. Sullivan has been serving as the company’s interim CEO since last October.

legg mason logo

Mark Fetting, the company’s former CEO, stepped down last year after Nelson Peltz  put pressure on the company to change its management. In the last five years, the company’s shares have lost almost 60% of their value. After losses sustained during the financial crisis, the company failed to recover its value. That situation has prevailed since the global meltdown.

In the last twelve months, the firm’s shares have barely changed in value, despite the activist efforts from Peltz. Changes in the company are not going to come quickly, that much is clear. It is now up to Joseph A. Sullivan to change the firm for the better.

For the last quarter of 2012, Legg Mason, Inc. (NYSE:LM) announced a loss of $3.65 per share. Those losses were linked to one off charges, but the nature of those charges was worrying for any investor, either in the company’s equity or in one of its funds. The company had to write down the value of several of its assets in the last quarter of 2012 because of declining assets under management.

Having reached a peak of $1 trillion in the days immediately preceding the financial crisis, the company’s assets under management have fallen to just over $654 million in the most recent quarter. The firm has had net withdrawals in twenty out of its last twenty one quarters through January.

The awful performance of the last five years cannot simply be put down to a blip, or an accident. Legg Mason, Inc. (NYSE:LM) has lost so much credibility that several firms affiliated with it have begun removing the company’s name from their brands. In the asset management world, a better brand means higher fees, Legg Mason appears to be failing on all fronts.

Joseph Sullivan faces an uphill battle to reform the firm. The fifty five year old has experience, however. He’s been acting CEO at the helm of the company for the last five months, and has been involved with the firm since 2008. He worked at a subsidiary of the company for twelve years before that. Legg Mason, Inc. (NYSE:LM) shares traded down a fraction in early morning trading on Wednesday.