Those first purchases in Florida were the start of a buying spree by F.N.B., which in the past five years has purchased a bank in Pennsylvania, one in Ohio and nine in southwest and central Florida. The company's assets have grown from $4 billion last year, when Tice took over as CEO, to almost $7 billion this year.
F.N.B.'s most recent acquisitions -- Bank of Central Florida in Orlando and Johnstown, Pa.-based Promistar Bank -- make it the largest bank holding company based in Florida, with 119 branches in Pennsylvania, 43 in Florida and 12 in Ohio.
Tice says F.N.B.'s acquisition strategy has been to target small, profitable community banks, which are also its biggest competitors. Tice does away with each newly acquired bank's board of directors but doesn't rebrand the banks immediately; instead he works with top management for about two years before changing the banks' names and tries to keep the same managers at each branch.
While F.N.B. offers the typical range of checking, loan, insurance and other financial services, Tice says the bank tries to keep a small-town feel. Visits to tellers are encouraged and are free; photocopies are free; and many branches offer touches like fresh-baked cookies.
The bank's second-quarter return on assets was 1.47% -- 1% is generally considered good. And since the beginning of the year, F.N.B. stock has risen 13.2% to around $30.
Benjamin Bishop, president of investment bank Allen C. Ewing & Co. in Jacksonville, compares F.N.B. to a young Barnett Bank. Bishop predicts that if F.N.B. keeps up its growth pace, a bigger competitor like Bank of America will look to acquire it.
Tice says he is not building up the company to sell it but acknowledges: "I represent the shareholders, and if there was a fantastic offer, I would have to share that with our directors."
Tice is now targeting the east coast of Florida from Boca Raton to St. Augustine and between Tampa and Orlando. Before he retires -- in seven years -- he aims to boost assets another 40%-plus to $10 billion and amass a group of managers able to keep F.N.B. running strong.
"Florida is the future of this company," Tice says. "I want to develop a team that will take this company well into the next 10 to 15 years."
IN THE NEWS
Clearwater -- The Environmental Protection Agency gave Clearwater $100,000 to help lure businesses into brownfields areas and an additional $50,000 to improve green space at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex on Drew Street. Last May, the city received $150,000 to help clean contaminated sites.
DeSoto County -- Wal-Mart Stores is building an 880,000-sq.-ft., $60-million distribution center in DeSoto County. The center should create 600 jobs, 90% of them full-time with benefits. Construction is expected to begin in March.
Holmes Beach -- In August, one of Holmes Beach's historic landmarks, Pete Reynard's Restaurant, built in 1954, was demolished to make way for the $19.6-million Tidemark Lodge & Marina. The new building will be patterned after the Everglades Rod & Gun Club (circa 1894) with 40 luxury condominium suites, a deep-water marina, a restaurant, lounge and hotel meeting facilities and is expected to be open by late next year.
Manatee County -- Bradenton-based Bealls Inc., an apparel chain, and Sarasota-based Chris-Craft, a luxury boat manufacturer, plan distribution center expansions in Manatee County. In exchange for creating about 400 jobs in the next two years, the companies will receive county and state incentives totaling more than $600,000 each.
Sarasota -- Uniroyal Technologies Corp. (Nasdaq-UTCIQ), a manufacturer of semiconductors and coated fabrics, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company laid off more than half of its 160 employees in Tampa this year. Uniroyal's stock was trading at about 8 cents a share in early September.
MadahCom Ltd., a wireless alarms systems maker, is relocating its headquarters to Sarasota's Interstate Park from New York and Israel. The company's largest customer is the Department of Defense, making alarms specifically for compound and campus settings. The move will create 15 jobs.
St. Petersburg -- OneStaff, a professional employer organization, changed its name to DecisionPEO and is preparing to launch a national expansion campaign. It has clients in 20 states and revenues of $100 million.
Tampa -- Richard Isel, CEO and chairman of SRI/Surgical Express (Nasdaq-STRC), which makes reusable surgical equipment, surprised SRI's board in August when he announced his retirement four months earlier than expected. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating SRI for overstating its third-quarter 2001 earnings. SRI's stock peaked in September 2001 at $41.56 and recently was trading at about $10.
Fortress Technologies, a security provider for wireless networks, landed $13 million in venture capital from New York-based Liberty Partners. Fortress plans to use the money to expand sales and marketing of its AirFortress security device, which is used by the military and other government operations.
Tampa-based ValienteHernandez P.A., certified public accountants, bought Junco & Co. CPA, a Tampa accounting firm specializing in representing clients investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and Florida Department of Revenue. Details of the merger were not disclosed.
SELLING A PROTECTED PARCEL
BUCK KEY -- The only parcel of developable land on Buck Key, a 343-acre state and federally protected island between Sanibel and Captiva islands, is for sale for $22 million. Real estate agents say the sale would be one of the most expensive ever in southwest Florida.
J.B. Novelli, the agent selling the property, says a New Yorker is interested in building an estate on the property. But the Trust for Public Land is trying to buy the property to protect the environmentally sensitive mangrove trees, Jamaican dogwood and mastic trees.