Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Bank Holding Company Set to Buy Small Tampa Lender

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Bank Holding Company Set to Buy Small Tampa Lender

Article excerpt

THE OWNER OF LAKEWOOD

Ranch-based Community Bank & Co. has struck again, making a deal to buy a small Tampa bank.

CBM Florida Holding Co. plans to acquire The Palm Bank, a $134 million-asset institution with three offices in Tampa.

Community Bank, now with $729 million in assets, would top the $850 million mark if the sale goes through.

The deal is the latest by CBM Florida aimed at growing its footprint north of its Lakewood Ranch base.

The company acquired a majority stake in Community Bank in 2009, and in May bought the larger First Community Bank of America, in Pinellas Park.

CBM then moved to purchase Old Harbor Bank of Clearwater for $25 million, but backed out two months later. Old Harbor, a $216 million- asset bank, failed on Oct. 21.

Meanwhile, Palm Bank has its own issues. Federal and state regulators in July ordered it to boost capital levels, increase its "underfunded" allowances for loan losses and charge off certain bad loans.

The bank lost $389,000 in the third quarter, bringing its year- to-date loss to $996,000. It reported a 7.08 percent level of nonperforming loans to assets. It was considered well capitalized by regulatory standards, but analyst BauerFinancial Inc. rated it at 2 stars, or "problematic," as of Sept. 30.

Pending stockholder and regulatory approvals, CBM expects to complete the deal in the first half of 2012.

In defense of Jerry Williams

As former Orion Bank Chief Executive Jerry J. Williams awaits sentencing on federal charges, his attorney is staunchly defending his client's reputation.

Williams pleaded guilty last month to three criminal counts of conspiracy to misapply bank funds and deceiving federal and state bank examiners.

He faces up to 15 years in prison, although prosecutors intend to recommend a lesser sentence in return for his guilty plea.

William M. Sullivan Jr., Williams' Washington, D.C.-based attorney, provided a statement to the Herald-Tribune that lauded the banker's "tireless work and unceasing devotion" that built Naples- based Orion into "one of the most successful community banks in the nation."

Williams' guilty plea "should not diminish that legacy," Sullivan said. …

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