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Front Page » Top Stories » Bankunited Has New Owners But Customers Will See Same Faces At Local Branches

Bankunited Has New Owners But Customers Will See Same Faces At Local Branches

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Written by on May 28, 2009

By Zachary S. Fagenson
While BankUnited may have a new owner, much of the old leadership team is sticking around, though it’s setting its sights on growing its commercial lending division.

"We haven’t set in stone a total management organizational change," new Chairman John Kanas said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "Most of the management team is [going] to remain intact, but there will be some changes over time."

Mr. Kanas, the former chief executive of Long Island-based North Fork Bank, and a group of private investment firms last week bought the Coral Gables-based thrift for $900 million, assuming $12.7 billion in assets and $8.3 billion in deposits.

The bank’s failure will cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $4.9 billion. The federal government will also share in a percentage of the losses up to $10.7 billion of the new bank’s assets.

The institution has retained the BankUnited name, but its operations, according to Mr. Kanas, will change in the coming months.

"This bank had a very big emphasis on wholesale mortgage origination all over the country, and that’s not something the bank will be doing in the future," he said. "We intend to put more emphasis on the development of commercial business over time."

Who will stay and who will go among top managers when the strategy shift begins, however, is still unknown.

Rank-and-file workers are expected to stay put, he said. "There’s no intention to change branch managers or tellers" in the bank’s 85 branches. "The employees customers see every day will remain the same."

After the quarter ending March 31, BankUnited’s troubled loans sat at $1.98 billion. Much of that stemmed from the risky mortgages the bank offered to people living outside the US looking to buy property in Florida. As of June 30, 2008, these "nonresident alien" mortgages totaled about $1.4 billion representing just over 11% of BankUnited’s loan portfolio.

Then, on April 14, the FDIC’s Office of Thrift Supervision ordered the failing institution to raise more capital or seek a merger.

Potential investors included Goldman Sachs, TD Bank and Mr. Kanas, with capital from investment equity firms including Blackstone Group LP, Carlyle Group and WL Ross & Co.

After being seized by federal regulators May 21, the bank re-opened the following morning and, Mr. Kanas said Tuesday, "deposits on Saturday started growing and are growing today." Advertisement

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