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Last one standing

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  • | 11:02 p.m. January 6, 2011
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During the boom, four banks or bank-holding companies in Collier County boasted over $1 billion in assets: Orion Bank, Florida Community Bank, Bank of Florida and TIB Bank.

Today, Naples-based TIB is the only survivor of the financial bust. Bank regulators shut down the other three and sold off their assets and deposits.

Dragged down by the real estate depression in South Florida, TIB was rescued by a group of former Bank of America executives bankrolled in part by former Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl Jr.

“The most exciting thing about TIB is that we have survived the downturn,” says Thomas Longe, currently TIB's market president for South Florida and the Keys.

North American Financial Holdings, led by former Bank of America Vice Chairman Eugene Taylor, invested $175 million in the bank with the possibility of $175 million more later. In exchange, North American gained control of 99% of TIB through massive share dilution that left existing shareholders including, the prominent Collier and Lutgert families, with 1%. (The alternative likely would have resembled what happened to TIB's big three Naples competitors.)

But the legacy shareholders will have an opportunity to buy into the new company in the first quarter. And by the first of the year, the company will record a reverse-split of its shares to comply with the $1-per-share minimum listing requirements on the Nasdaq market.

North American has been actively acquiring other banks in Florida and the Carolinas and total assets now approach $5 billion in assets. “Eventually, we'll all be on one platform with one name and $10 billion to $15 billion in Florida and the Carolinas,” says Longe.

The combination into a single charter under one name will likely take place shortly after the New Year. The details are being worked out now, says Longe.

Although TIB didn't stop lending during the downturn, it's planning to step up its loan production in Florida, focus on clients with owner-occupied real estate, and expand to new areas such as Tampa. “We completely repositioned our balance sheet,” Longe says.

The disruption in the market by the disappearance of old competitors and the appearance of new ones will benefit TIB, Longe says. “There's a lot of opportunity from other banks,” he says.

There are geographic opportunities too. For example, Longe says the Tampa Bay region is an attractive market and TIB might expand there by acquiring an existing bank in that area. Currently, TIB has branches as far north as Venice.


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