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Robert Trigaux

Report: Bidders planning on BankUnited offer



BankUnited Financial, the largest banking institution (and perhaps the most troubled) based in Florida, is the target of a potential bid by Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and billionaire Wilbur Ross. The Coral-Gables institution, which operates several offices in the Tampa Bay area, has been designated ''critically undercapitalized'' by federal regulators. Any bid would apparently occur after a seizure of the bank by federal regulators and with federal financial assistance. 

News of the anticipated bid was reported by Bloomberg News, citing unnamed sources.

This Venture blog reported on April 17 that federal regulators had given BankUnited until the end of this month to fix itself, meaning to find new capital to help shore up its exposure to bad loans, primarily from the wrecked Florida housing market.

Bloomberg News reports the three investors would jointly buy BankUnited. The terms of the offer were not specified. BankUnited's market value has fallen 93 percent to $10 million in the past year.

Ross, whose New York-based WL Ross & Co. has bought distressed assets and companies in the financial, automotive and steel industries, agreed as an individual in January to buy 68.1 percent of Florida’s First Bank and Trust Co. and said he plans to use the company as a platform to buy other banking assets.

Blackstone, the world’s biggest private-equity firm, last year bought a minority interest in Bayview Asset Management LP, which buys mortgage loans and mortgage-backed securities.

Carlyle in July invested $75 million in Boston Private Financial Holdings, a publicly traded wealth manager. The Washington-based firm last year hired UBS AG banker Olivier Sarkozy, who heads Carlyle’s group focused on financial deals.

BankUnited's stock trades at midday Thursday at 29 cents.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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