Magazine article American Banker

First Deal in Bid to Create Suburban Chicago Network

Magazine article American Banker

First Deal in Bid to Create Suburban Chicago Network

Article excerpt

The former head of a big Chicago community bank is hoping to start a network of community banks in the suburbs.

In May 1994, Charles Bruning sold $534 million-asset EdgeMark Financial Corp. for $62 million of stock to Old Kent Financial Corp. of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Now he is chairman and chief executive of Amerimark Financial Corp., set up last May by a group of former EdgeMark investors. And this week Amerimark made its first purchase, paying $9.8 million in cash for $49 million-asset Duco Bancshares of Villa Park, Ill.

Mr. Bruning, the founder and former chairman of the American Bankers Association's Community Bankers Council, is seeking to take advantage of the abundance of small banks in the area and customer dissatisfaction with industry consolidation.

"We are happy to be back in community banking," said Mr. Bruning, who had been Edgemark's president and chief executive. "We will focus our efforts on building a network of banking organizations in the western suburbs."

With consolidation in full swing, a growing number of investor groups are forming corporations like Amerimark for the sole purpose of investing in or acquiring small community banks and boosting their earnings potential.

The groups-which include James Dierberg's First Banks Inc. of St. Louis; Oak Park, Ill.-based FBOP Corp.; and Dartmouth Capital Group-have been most active in the Midwest and California, which have many small community banks.

Mr. Bruning said his new company will target small and midsize businesses and professionals and will offer "highly personalized service, convenience, and specialized attention. …

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