Ex-Wachovia Chief Baker Said to Hire KBW for Bank Fundraising

Ex-Wachovia Corp. Chief Executive Officer Leslie “Bud” Baker hired Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc. to raise $400 million and expand a North Carolina community bank into an $8 billion to $10 billion regional company, a person familiar with the matter said.

KBW will lead fundraising for Park Sterling Bank, the three-year-old Charlotte-based lender with about $400 million of assets, the person said, speaking anonymously because the investment bank’s role hasn’t been publicly disclosed. The effort will target individual and institutional investors, Park Sterling President Bryan Kennedy III said.

“Our idea is to build and run this bank for the long term rather than building it with the idea of selling in five to seven years,” Kennedy, 52, said in an interview. Park Sterling didn’t talk with private-equity groups that have formed to acquire banks because of their shorter-term focus and desire to have a larger management role, he said.

Kennedy declined to name the investment bank hired by Park Sterling. Jenna Agins, a spokeswoman for New York-based KBW, didn’t have a comment.

Thirteen of Park Sterling’s 15 directors will step aside for a board to be chaired by Baker, who retired in 2003 after the 2001 sale of Wachovia to First Union Corp, according to a statement issued yesterday.

Baker, 68, left Wachovia a year earlier than initially scheduled under an agreement signed at the bank’s sale. He became president and CEO of Wachovia in 1994 after joining the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank in 1969. He previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Shareholders are being asked to approve a plan that would increase shares of common stock to 200 million from 45 million, the bank said. Kennedy will remain president, while former Wachovia executive James C. Cherry will become CEO. Cherry was formerly head of the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. region for Wachovia.

Park Sterling shares added $1.15, or 17 percent, to $8.10 at 4:30 p.m. in over-the-counter bulletin board trading.

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