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Stagecoach set to ride into Florida

Antitrust regulators on Friday approved Wells Fargo's bid to buy Wachovia, moving the Wells Fargo name a step closer to the flagship spot on Florida's banking towers.

So just what's with this Wells Fargo & Co., anyway?

The bank with its roots in the Gold Rush loves to feature the image "of a six-horse stagecoach thundering across the American West, loaded with gold." The stagecoach is still its corporate symbol — 10 originals adorn the bank's history museums, and replicas appear in parades. The bank, founded in 1852, opened its first branches in Sacramento and San Francisco. It's in many ways the West Coast equivalent of Wachovia — including a suffering loan portfolio, which the combined institutions will have to deal with. It was a Northern California regional bank in the 1960s and became statewide in the 1980s, making it the seventh-largest bank in the country. In the '90s it spread through other states. It didn't open retail branches in Florida, though it does have mortgage centers. By this past summer it was fifth among banks in assets. Now it could end up the largest in the nation.

Wachovia's officially No. 1 in Florida, just in time for takeover.

Wachovia Corp. officially took the crown as Florida's largest bank — even as its sale to Wells Fargo marched forward. Wachovia a year ago was viewed as surpassing Bank of America in Florida after it finalized its takeover of Golden West, the parent of World Savings Bank. But there's a long lag time before the annual release of market share data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Recently released FDIC figures estimate Wachovia had $71.1-billion in banking deposits statewide as of June 30, or 18.7 percent of the total, overtaking Bank of America, which had $69.4-billion, or 18.25 percent.

Is it really a done deal?

Wells Fargo plans to complete the deal by the end of the year. Wachovia got approval from the New York Stock Exchange on Friday to skip a shareholder vote, saying a delay could hurt the bank.

Times staff writers Becky Bowers and Jeff Harrington contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com and Wells Fargo.

Stagecoach set to ride into Florida 10/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2008 11:15pm]
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