The most notable, Marcato Capital Management, led by activist investor Richard McGuire, disclosed late last year that it had accumulated a stake in LPL. The hedge fund said then that it might enter into discussions with LPL about mergers or acquisitions. As of January 2016, Marcato and its related entities controlled 9.8 percent of LPL’s shares, according to SEC filings.

Of course, any buyer of LPL would have to take steps to ensure that the bulk of the firm’s 14,000 affiliated advisors — and their clients’ assets — would stick around after a sale.

New owners “could end up being a trigger for [advisor] flight,” said recruiter Jon Henschen.

Henschen agrees that the most likely buyers of LPL would be private equity firms. But he warns that they “usually want more profits, which equates to higher expenses for reps and clients.”

Nevertheless, several LPL reps tell Financial Advisor that they’d welcome a return to private ownership.

“I don’t care what they do to get the best set up for the company, as long as [the buyer] doesn’t end up being something like a big insurance company … and six months later we have [proprietary] products” being pushed, said Doug Flynn, co-founder of Flynn Zito Capital Management in Garden City, N.Y., which is affiliated with LPL.

“I consider myself fiercely independent, and I know many people at [LPL] feel the same,” he added.

“I would view anything other than going private again … negatively,” said another LPL rep who asked not to be named. Being part of a public company creates too much focus on meeting quarterly numbers, he said.

Meanwhile, LPL reps on Wednesday received a message from LPL president Dan Arnold, which acknowledged the media reports about a possible sale, but repeated a statement given to the media that as a matter of policy the firm would not comment on “rumors or speculation.” Arnold also assured the troops that LPL would continue to support their businesses.