Fortress, P.E. Firms Near Deal For Fla. Bank

May 28 2009 | 12:04pm ET

Florida banking is the place to be for alternative investment firms these days. Just a week after an investor group led by four private equity firms bought Coral Gables-based BankUnited, another p.e. consortium is poised to scoop up another Sunshine State bank.

Fortress Investment Group, which is teaming up with p.e. shops Crestview Partners and Lightyear Capital, would inject $800 million into First Southern Bancorp, more than twice as much as the bank actually holds in assets, the Financial Times reports. A source told FINalternatives that each firm is putting up an equal amount of equity in the deal.

But unlike BankUnited, which was on the brink of collapse and was sold to a group including W.L. Ross & Co. and the Carlyle Group, First Southern is thought to have a clean balance sheet.

A deal for First Southern would be Fortress’ first in retail banking. Like the peers who bought BankUnited, Fortress is thought to eye First Southern as a stepping stone for further banking acquisitions.

A deal could be announced as soon as today. The FT reports that, should the deal win regulatory approval, Fortress and its partners plan to name former Bank of America Vice Chairman Eugene Taylor as CEO.

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