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First Horizon Acquiring Michigan Mortgage Banker

Equity Group purchase will broaden base of banking services prospects

June 22, 2004

By PATRICK CROWLEY


One of the nation's largest mortgage lenders is getting bigger.

First Horizon Home Loans of Irving, Texas, has bought Equity Group Financial, a Livonia, Mich.-based mortgage banker licensed to do business in Michigan and Ohio, according to an announcement.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

First Horizon is one of the country's largest mortgage companies. In a statement announcing the purchase, First Horizon said it ranked 15th in servicing loans, with servicing volume of more than $68 billion, and 14th in loan originations, with volume of $51.03 billion in 2003.

Representatives of Equity Group did not return phone calls to comment. In the statement, the company said that over its nine year existence it has grown from four employees to more than 100 today and serves 2,500 mortgage customers through a network of five Michigan branch offices in Livonia, Taylor, Brighton, Saline and Sterling Heights.

The deal was initiated by First Horizon Regional president Doug Seabolt, according to the First Horizon statement.

"The transaction will provide new and existing home loan customers in these markets (Ohio and Michigan) with additional products and services," First Horizon said in the statement. "These will include equity-based financing, installment loans, credit cards, personal banking services, financial planning and other First Horizon consumer products."

Jay Bobel, Equity Group's president and founder, will become a senior vice president at First Horizon and focus on recruiting "additional mortgage sales professionals," First Horizon said.

"Jay Bobel's skills and local market knowledge will be a tremendous asset for Michigan and Ohio customers," Seabolt said in the statement.

"Our partnership will provide a wider range of financial products and services that will differentiate ourselves from competitors," he said. "In addition, we can establish more long-term relationships with customers that offer them real value and convenience."

Bobel's partners in Equity Group, Brandon White and Joe Skaisgir, will also continue with the company.

First Horizon's units include First Horizon Home Loans, First Horizon Wholesale, First Tennessee Home Loans, First Horizon Lending Center and First Horizon Equity Lending.

First Horizon is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Tennessee Bank National Association. It's parent company, First Horizon National Corp. (formerly First Tennessee National Corp.) is a diversified financial services company based in Memphis, Tenn., and a member of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, according to the company.

In the first quarter of this year the company had record earnings of $119.3 million, or 92 cents a share, compared to earnings of 119 million, or 91 cents a share, for the first quarter of 2003, according to its most recent financial statement.

Mortgage loan origination was $7 billion for the quarter, down from $11 billion in the first quarter of 2003.

The company attributed the decrease to a drop in the refinancing of mortgage loans.

"Given the industry-wide decline in refinance volume, the decrease in production volume was expected," the company said.

"However, home purchase and related originations grew 22 percent from the first quarter of 2003, to $3 billion, demonstrating First Horizon's success in executing its strategy to grow the purchase market," it said.


Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist and former business writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Email Patrick at: [email protected]

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