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Bay area part of bank expansion

As BankUnited branches out to Florida's west coast, Bank of St. Petersburg Holdings also plans changes.

By KRIS HUNDLEY
Published March 7, 2006


Two Florida banks are expanding into new markets.

BankUnited Financial Corp., the largest Florida-based bank, is expanding beyond its South Florida roots with its first branch in the Tampa Bay area.

Meanwhile, the parent of the Bank of St. Petersburg plans to raise more than $20-million to open a subsidiary in the Jacksonville area.

BankUnited of Coral Gables, which has $11.3-billion in assets and 70 branches in South Florida, opened its first Tampa office Monday on N Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood.

Linda Young, who previously ran a Bank of America branch in Palm Harbor, is managing the new BankUnited location.

A spokeswoman for BankUnited, which had $5-billion in deposits at the end of 2005, said it intends to open numerous locations on the west coast of Florida this year, though she declined to be more specific.

The bank is the biggest Florida-based financial institution, though it ranks 12th statewide in market share, far behind out-of-state leaders like Bank of America, Wachovia and SunTrust. Since it was founded in 1985, BankUnited has focused most of its growth on Dade and Broward counties.

While BankUnited moves west, the holding company that operates the Bank of St. Petersburg is looking to northeast Florida for growth. Bank of St. Petersburg Holdings is changing its name to Florida Bank Group and has applied with the state for approval of a new subsidiary, the Bank of North Florida. It will operate in the metro Jacksonville area, with the first branch opening by summer.

Joseph Caballero, president and chief executive of the Bank of St. Petersburg, said the holding company will raise more than $20-million to finance the new bank.

J. Stewart Baker III, who has 33 years of experience in Florida banking, most recently as senior vice president of SunTrust Bank, will be president and chief executive of Bank of North Florida.

The Bank of St. Petersburg was founded in 1985, but had a change in ownership in January 2002 when it was acquired by Robert Rothman. With six branches in the Tampa Bay area, Bank of St. Petersburg has $395-million in assets and about $295-million in deposits.

--Kris Hundley can be reached at hundley@sptimes.com or 727 892-2996.

[Last modified March 7, 2006, 01:14:20]


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