Sunday, October 25, 2009

Failed Banks but No Bargains?

Good write up in Forbes. Thanks goes to Pete.

Gerald Ford made a fortune scooping up busted financial companies. Right now he's sitting on his wallet.


Seven years after he vaulted into billionairedom (net worth today: $1.35 billion) with a killing from resuscitating feeble banks in California, he can't seem to find anything to buy, at least not at a price he's willing to pay. He's raised $2 billion from the likes of mit, Yale and the Ford Foundation, got regulators to give him unprecedented carte blanche to bid on failed banks, signed two dozen nondisclosure agreements, dispatched staffers to comb over books on-site (spending 2,480 man-hours on the commercial loans of one, he recalls with excruciating detail), even made seven formal offers. All to no avail.


One bank he did like: the failed Guaranty Bank, with $13 billion in assets and 164 branches. Ford and his staff of 18 in his offices in Dallas, Chicago and New York spent most of the summer studying the Austin, Tex. lender but, alas, were outbid by Spanish banking giant BBVA. Regulators let banks buying failed banks get away with a 4% capital cushion, while buyout funds must put up 10% of assets. Ford argues that this disparity allowed BBVA to make a nicer offer for Guaranty. His outlook is perhaps "not as rosy" as that of his Spanish rival, he says.

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