First Southern Bancorp Said Exploring Sale After Bank Purchases

First Southern Bancorp Inc., one of more than a dozen small lenders that raised money to buy failed banks after the financial crisis, is exploring a sale, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

First Southern, of Boca Raton, Florida, is working with Stifel Financial Corp.’s Keefe Bruyette & Woods unit, to find buyers, said the people, asking not to be named because the process is private. The lender, which trades over the counter, had $193 million in equity capital and $1.1 billion of assets as of June 30, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

First Southern was one of at least 14 lenders that raised funds from private-equity firms and other investors with the aim of buying failed banks, according to data from SNL Financial. Founded in 1987, the bank raised $400 million in 2010 and acquired two failed banks that year and the year after.

J. Herbert Boydstun, First Southern’s chief executive officer, said the bank doesn’t comment on strategic decisions. Michael Gelormino, a spokesman for KBW, also declined to comment.

First Southern took over Haven Trust Bank Florida in Ponte Vedra Beach after it was closed by regulators in 2010, and First Commercial Bank of Florida in Orlando in 2011. The lender hasn’t turned an annual profit since 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It lost $362,000 in the first half of 2013, compared with a loss of $8.1 million a year earlier, the data show.

The bank’s current shareholders include Capital Group Companies Inc., an investment manager, and Banc Funds Co. LLC, a private equity firm, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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