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AmericanWest sale closes

Tue., Dec. 21, 2010

Spokane-based bank undone by loan losses

The purchase of AmericanWest Bank by a new holding company closed Monday.

SKBHC Holdings LLC paid $6.5 million for the Spokane bank and its Utah division, Far West Bank. The group also injected $185 million in capital into the bank, which was reeling from losses on construction and real estate loans.

The seller was AmericanWest Bancorporation, which filed bankruptcy Oct. 28 to facilitate the sale of its only subsidiary. The corporation’s affairs will be wound down during the first quarter of 2011, spokeswoman Kelly McPhee said.

Scott Kisting, the new president and chief executive officer of AmericanWest, said the additional capital will enable bank representatives to renew contacts with existing customers and reach out to potential new clients.

Although financial constraints had limited AmericanWest’s ability to meet all customer product needs, he said, officials did a good job maintaining its reputation as a community bank.

“This is the start of a dynamic period of strengthening relationships with customers and expanding our franchise when possible,” said Kisting, who organized SKBHC to purchase banks that, like AmericanWest, were undermined by massive loan losses. SKBHC, which has been based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has raised $750 million from investors such as Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital Management.

Kisting said the holding company will relocate to Spokane. He will split his time between managing AmericanWest and looking for other acquisitions, he said.

James Claffee is the new chief operating officer.

Both have extensive experience with much larger banks, including stints with Bank of America.

“We have a history of putting marketing programs in place,” Kisting said.

He said AmericanWest is a name and a brand with room to grow beyond its network of 58 branches in Washington, Idaho and Utah.

Officers will be meeting with employees over the next month to help formulate a strategic plan, Kisting said, adding that he hopes to visit every branch during the process.

As AmericanWest grows, internally and through acquisitions, instilling the supportive culture that sustained it through more than two years of hardship will be important, he said.

“Our focus is building on this foundation,” Kisting said.

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