Hedge fund firm Man Group is to buy exposure to the estates of defunct U.S. bank Lehman Brothers from funds run by its GLG unit for $355 million, in an effort to clean up the funds' holdings and make them easier to sell to new investors.

GLG -- bought by Man Group last year for $1.6 billion -- was using Lehman as its main prime broker at the time of the U.S. bank's collapse at the nadir of the credit crisis in 2008, and Monday's move means Man will benefit or bear the risk of any change in the value of the claims.

The cash deal mainly affects GLG's European Long Short fund, run by star manager Pierre Lagrange, and its North American fund, which will share upside in limited circumstances in return for transferring the risk.

These transactions will remove the remaining uncertainty from funds with residual claims against the Lehman estates, to the benefit of both existing and new investors, Man Group Chief Executive Peter Clarke said in the statement.

The deal, which was approved by directors of the funds rather than the investors themselves, raises the question of whether investors would have benefited more from holding on to the claims.

High-profile hedge fund manager John Paulson is an investor in Lehman Brothers Holdings inc, which last month upped its estimated payback for creditors to $65 billion.

Man Group declined to give details on how far the GLG funds had written down the value of their Lehman claims.

We ... assume that Man would not be taking on the risk if it did not expect to gain or at least come out even, said analysts at Oriel Securities in a note.

This has been in the works for some considerable time, a source close to Man Group told Reuters. This is not something that GLG could have done (by itself).

At 0929 GMT Man's shares were down 2.2 percent at 235.7 pence.

The regulatory capital impact of acquiring the exposure is expected to be about $50 million and the move will have a negligible impact on Man's net interest expense, the group said.

In this way, Man can use its resources productively to provide clarity for fund investors and the opportunity to grow assets in the affected funds more quickly, Clarke added.

Directors of the relevant funds have received independent financial and legal advice with respect to the transactions, Man said.

(Editing by Sinead Cruise and Jon Loades-Carter)