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Investors buy Bank of Santa Barbara from Michigan company

By   /   Thursday, November 12th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Investors buy Bank of Santa Barbara from Michigan company

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It’s official: Bank of Santa Barbara is now run from Santa Barbara and not Michigan.

A group of local investors headed by Santa Barbara banking veteran Eloy Ortega announced that it bought the roughly $55-million-asset Bank of Santa Barbara from its Michigan-based parent firm in July. The deal with Capitol Bancorp Limited of Michigan closed Nov. 11, bringing the bank under local control.

“We feel this is a real opportunity to get into a sound financial institution because so many of our competitors are out of the market for various and sundry reasons,” Ortega told the Business Times. “We think there’s a big need in the community for a solid bank like this that’s willing to do business.”
To bolster the bank, Ortega and a group of investors that include the Orfalea Family Foundation, the Hutton Foundation and Tim and Bernie Marquez of oil firm Venoco put an additional $2.9 million in capital into the bank. That will bring Bank of Santa Barbara’s tier one leverage ratio — its free cash divided by loans and other assets — up to 13.5 percent. That is well above the red-flag ratio of 4 percent, below which banks risk drawing regulators’ formal attention.

Bank of Santa Barbara also said that it will take “aggressive steps to resolve troubled assets.” In its Sept. 30 filings with regulators, Bank of Santa Barbara said about $1.5 million in land and construction loans and $1 million in commercial and industrial loans were in nonaccrual, a loan status in which the bank might not recover its principal.

“What we’ve been doing is pushing to exercise all our collection efforts aggressively — not sitting back and letting these things fester. We’re moving them through the process quickly. We’re taking the charge-offs where we need to and then replenishing the reserves on top of that.”

Ortega also said he expects core deposits to grow now that the deal to take the bank local has closed.

The bank plans to focus on serving small- and mid-sized businesses and organizations such as medical and dental practices and nonprofit groups.

And now that Bank of Santa Barbara will be run from Santa Barbara, a few jobs will be created. Ortega said he plans to hire a chief financial officer, two clerical workers and at least one administrative worker.

• See page three of the Nov. 13 print issue of the Business Times for an in-depth story.

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