Investor group buys CalFirst to prepare for more acquisitions

An investor group has acquired California First National Bank in Irvine.

DMG Bancshares, which is run by veteran banker Don Griffith, said in a press release Wednesday that it completed the purchase of the $123 million-asset CalFirst on Feb. 26. DMG did not disclose the price it paid.

DMG said that it plans to use CalFirst to build a West Coast regional community bank and that more acquisitions are possible. The bank will focus on making loans to private lenders, real estate developers and investors.

DMG’s investor group includes Stone Point Capital and Reverence Capital Partners, which committed about 45% of the company’s initial $170 million of capital.

The Federal Reserve approved the group’s application to form a bank holding company in December. DMG received approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in January.

California First had $880 million of assets in March 2017 when the OCC ordered it to “substantially reduce” its concentration of leveraged loans.

The OCC had instructed California First earlier that year to stop originating leveraged or nonleveraged syndicated commercial loans until the agency could validate that an acceptable risk management framework was in place.

Griffith, through Grandpoint Bank, bought 11 banks from 2010 to 2014 to reach $3 billion of assets. The bank was sold to Pacific Premier Bancorp in 2018.

Several other former Grandpoint executives are part of DMG.

Deborah Marsten is DMG’s president and chief operating officer, and David Dayton is its chief financial officer. Susan Wahba serves as chief risk officer, while Jim Hackbarth is chief credit officer. Loraine White is director of human resources.

DMG was advised by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Duane Morris.

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