by Art Levy
Updated 4 yearss ago
In January 2005, after Fifth Third Bank purchased his Naples-based First National Bank of Florida for $1.5 billion, Gary Tice retired — or at least he tried to. As soon as the deal’s four-year non-compete clause expired, Tice got back into banking, joining former First National partner and current state Sen. Garrett Richter to create another community bank, this one called the First National Bank of the Gulf Coast.
“Basically, this is my life,” says Tice, Gulf Coast’s 65-year-old chairman and CEO. “I don’t have any hobbies. I have the privilege of saying that I’ve been in banking for 40 years, absent the non-compete years, and I’ve never worked a day in my life. I enjoy what I do.”
To start the new bank, Tice rounded up much of the same management team that built First National Bank of Florida into a $5.4-billion-asset institution with 77 branches, most between Naples and Tampa. He says the old bank grew steadily, thanks in part to buying 12 other Florida banks during its 16 years.
Gulf Coast’s business plan looks much the same. In 2009, it merged with Panther Community Bank. In July, it purchased Naples-based Royal Bank of Florida through the FDIC. Given the “right opportunity in Tampa,” Tice says the bank will expand there.
Gulf Coast’s assets total around $600 million — not enough, he says.
“We believe a super community bank today needs to be in the $2-billion to $4-billion range, and so that’s what our goal is,” Tice says. “We want to get there, but we want to get there profitably. We’re not going to acquire banks for the sake of acquiring banks. We’re going to look for opportunities that benefit both the buyer and the seller. We’ll continue to look at transactions from the FDIC. Our goal is to get to somewhere around $2 billion in the next two years.”
Is he planning on the same kind of exit strategy as with First National?
“It was 16 years before we sold our other bank, and we never had any intention of selling,” he says. “It was a transaction that when we did the evaluation, we couldn’t turn it down. When it was announced, we got over six times tangible book and 40.3 times earnings. There are no plans for selling this bank, but if someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse, then I’ll present it to the board of directors.”
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