Magazine article American Banker

Belvedere Planning New Fund for Bank Acquisitions in West

Magazine article American Banker

Belvedere Planning New Fund for Bank Acquisitions in West

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -

With its $80 million purchase of Sacramento (Calif.) Commercial Bank two weeks ago, Belvedere Capital Corp. has depleted its $160 million community bank acquisition fund.

But instead of taking a breather after more than two years of steady dealmaking, the investment company has laid out an ambitious plan for 2000 that includes the creation of a much larger bank investment fund and a public offering for its new community bank holding company.

Belvedere Capital president and co-founder Richard W. Decker said in a recent interview here that he is rounding up investors for a $400 million to $500 million fund that would buy stakes in banks with as much as $2 billion of assets. That, he said, should make California Community Bancshares, its bank holding company, more attractive to investors when it goes public in the third quarter.

"The analysts and the Street look at you differently as your size increases," said Mr. Decker, a former executive at First Interstate Bank and the onetime chief executive officer of Westamerica Bancorp in San Raphael, Calif.

Belvedere was founded in 1997 by Mr. Decker and Anthony M. Frank, a longtime California banker and former U.S. postmaster general.

Backed by such blue-chip investors as Bell Atlantic Corp. and the California Public Employees Retirement System, Belvedere Capital has bought four banks outright and acquired majority stakes in three others since late 1997.

Six of the seven banks have since been merged into four institutions, two in Northern California and two in the southern part of the state. …

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