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Small Mortgage Firms Joining Bigger Companies

Recent mortgage-related mergers and acquisitions

Oct. 26, 2009

By SAM GARCIA


Stiffer regulations are driving some independent mortgage firms to become part of bigger lenders or financial institutions. In addition, mortgage service providers are joining the merger movement. Meanwhile, former executives of Bear Stearns & Co.'s mortgage unit have joined a new Arizona lender.

National Residential Mortgage was launched as a subsidiary of First Arizona Savings FSB by Greg Russell and Jeff Walton, an Oct. 13 announcement said.

Walton was previously chief executive officer of Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage and will lead the new venture, while Russell was a managing director of Hudson Advisors. Bear's former executive team has also joined the new Phoenix-based unit, and a former National City Mortgage executive, Steve Atwood, will head production.

"In this changing regulatory environment, it is also essential to have a national charter with regulatory preemption," Walton stated in the news release.

American Eagle Mortgage has become part of Mortgage Network Inc., according to a press release last week. Mortgage Network, which operates as MNET, told MortgageDaily.com that it employs 281 people and claims to be "the largest independent mortgage company in the Northeast." American Eagle employs 20 originators.

"Recent changes in the industry, brought on by new regulations and restrictions, have been making it increasingly difficult for independent mortgage bankers and brokers to offer loans with competitive rates," the statement said. "This merger will allow American Eagle to continue to offer personalized service to these areas, while expanding the geographical reach of the Mortgage Network lending menu of products."

MNET reported retail originations of $1.7 billion last year and previously projected $4 billion in 2008 volume including wholesale business -- which it suspended in December 2008.

Silverdale, Wash.-based Olympic Northwest Mortgage is in the process of transitioning to the brand of Lynwood, Wash.-based Network Mortgage Services, according to an Oct. 1 statement. The transition completes a process that began in April. Olympic's two owners, Walt Bailey and Kay Arnold, indicated in the statement that they decided on the move when it became apparent that the mortgage meltdown had prompted regulatory changes that would make it extremely difficult to continue operating as they had.

"We had two choices; keep doing what we were doing and risk going under or become part of a larger, stronger operation," Bailey said in the statement.

An Oct. 20 statement indicated GVC Venture Corp. acquired Halo Group Inc. on Sept. 30 in a triangular reverse merger transaction. Halo operates a mortgage brokerage and a loan modification business.

Wintrust Mortgage acquired Revere Mortgage Ltd., a mortgage brokerage based in Illinois, the News-Gazette reported. Since launching 18 years ago, Revere reportedly has originated more than $4.5 billion.

UnitedTech Lender Services announced last week that it purchased assets of LandAmerica OneStop -- including LandAmerica Default Services Co. and BackInTheBlack. The two units now operate as UTLS Default Services and UTLS BackInTheBlack.

The First American Corp. announced the commencement of an exchange offer for all publicly held shares of the common stock of subsidiary First Advantage Corp. The offer is for 0.58 shares of First American's common stock in exchange for each First Advantage share and requires the acceptance by a majority of First Advantage shareholders.


Sam Garcia worked in mortgage lending for twenty years prior to becoming publisher of MortgageDaily.com in 2000.

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