Bank Ranks Second For Start-up Capital
By Jim Freer
Friday, January 21, 2005


Stonegate Bank has raised $40 million - the second-largest start-up capital for a Florida bank - and plans to open its Fort Lauderdale headquarters on Feb. 14.

The amount of starting capital is second only to Miami-based Great Florida Bank, which raised $59 million before it opened last June, according to Business Journal research and bank regulators' records.

But Stonegate's initial success may be just the beginning of more investment in the bank, which will be based at 1430 N. Federal Highway - the former site of the now-closed Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.

Stonegate officials are planning to raise more capital with an IPO late next year or early in 2007, said David Seleski, the bank's president and CEO.

To build Stonegate's record-worthy capital, organizers said they used their contacts on Wall Street and other financial centers. They also took their sales pitch to money management firms - a rare step for a start-up bank.

Institutional investors almost always require profits and a trend of growing revenues before investing in banks. But Stonegate's application projects the bank will be profitable by mid-2006.

The bank expects to quickly attract customers and establish a business banking niche, because it will use its $40 million "to hire our lending team and start building our infrastructure from the start," Seleski said.

That includes private banking and investment services.

By mid-March, the bank plans to add an office at 301 Yamato Road in Boca Raton. That was the site of a Northern Trust Bank of Florida office before the bank relocated within the city last February to 3100 N. Military Trail.

Stonegate's first two offices are in areas that "seem to fit the niche for a bank that wants to focus on wealth management and business lending," said Ken Thomas, president of Miami-based, which advises banks on choosing branch sites.

Stonegate will concentrate on loans to local businesses with $50 million or less in annual revenue and commercial real estate lending, with an emphasis that includes developers of townhouse complexes, Seleski said.

The bank will offer trust accounts and investment management, through an alliance with Norcross, Ga.-based Triad Advisors.

Stonegate's plans include possibly adding branches in northern Palm Beach County and northern Broward County in 2006.

The Florida Division of Banking approved Stonegate's application Dec. 23. The bank expects to receive approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. by the end of this month, thus enabling it to open.

Seleski, 39, was South Florida president for Jacksonville-based Florida Bank prior to its merger last July into Orlando-based Mercantile Bank. He previously headed South Florida private banking operations for Birmingham, Ala.-based SouthTrust Bank.

Rather than joining Mercantile to head South Florida operations, Seleski contacted some former customers and other friends with a goal of forming a bank.

Stonegate sold its privately held stock at $10 a share to 258 investors. That included several dozen local business people who invested the minimum $10,000, buying 1,000 shares.

Robin Rodriguez, a Miami-based investment banker, is Stonegate's chairman and biggest investor, with 150,000 shares, a $1.5 million investment.

A former client of Seleski's, he is a partner in Anglo-American Financial, a Charlottesville, Va.-based hedge fund.

Rodriguez joined Seleski in marketing Stonegate to executives of money management firms in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.


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