John Kanas was at breakfast at the Four Seasons on Brickell Avenue recently when he bumped into Daniel Healy, his former right-hand man who had helped him build a big, profitable New York bank that sold for a princely sum.
These days, the two veteran New York bankers are still chasing bank deals. But they're facing off as competitors in what is shaping up to be a gold rush to buy up failed Florida banks under lucrative deals with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
``It was kind of strange. There we were: I was with a client. He was talking with a potential client,'' says Kanas, 63, former chairman and CEO of North Fork Bancorp -- and the man who led a group of private equity firms in a pioneering bid to acquire the collapsed BankUnited from the FDIC in May 2009.
Kanas' deal for BankUnited, the largest Florida-based bank, marked only the second time regulators allowed private equity firms, which pool money from wealthy investors, to own a bank.
Since then, dead banks auctioned off by the FDIC have become all the rage among the smartest money on Wall Street. And Florida and Georgia are emerging as the El Dorado of opportunity to pick up failed banks.
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