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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 5, 2004 18 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

This week's items: Private investors who are buying the Kansas-based parent of Gold Bank won't change the name Sarasota County's consultants report belabors the obvious for conference centerThe four remaining proposals to develop the city-own

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Gold finds gold

The private investors led by career banker C. Stanley Bailey who are buying the Kansas-based parent of Gold Bank won't change the name, despite a 2003 embezzlement scandal.

Bailey, who used to be chief financial officer at AmSouth Bancorp, heads up Silver Acquisition Corp., which was formed to buy Gold Banc Corp. Inc. for about $672 million. The group includes a pair of private-equity fund managers.

Gold has been expanding along the Gulf Coast since 2000 and considers the region a future growth market.

The banking company was just getting back on its feet before the Feb. 25 acquisition announcement. In December, Gold received a final restitution payment from former Chief Executive and Chairman Michael W. Gullion, who was accused of diverting more than $3 million of bank resources to his own accounts.

The scandal alarmed federal regulators, who had Gold sign monitoring agreements last summer. The Federal Reserve Bank lifted restrictions in January after regulators restored Gold to well-managed status.

But Gold still disappointed Wall Street with its 2003 fourth-quarter results.

For instance, Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP, which also served as Gold's investment banker for the deal with the Bailey group, had forecast earnings of 19 cents a share. The firm pegged Gold's operating earnings at only 17 cents, excluding nonrecurring events.

Gold's presence in Florida is concentrated in Charlotte, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Its biggest market share is in Manatee, where it bought the old American Bank four years ago. Gold has almost 9% of Manatee's deposits, according to SNL Financial's analysis of June 30 data.

The bank has nearly 4% of Charlotte's deposits, SNL says, but less than 1% in the Hillsborough and Sarasota markets.

Cost of Common Sense: $80,000

It is always astounding how much information $80,000 generates, but Coffee Talk thought it noteworthy how one of Sarasota County's consultants selected a site for a potential conference center. Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, based in Minneapolis, says there are three possible sites: the airport entrance, the Quay and the downtown cultural district.

"Given the need for significant full-service hotel inventory and the availability of such properties in the Quay/cultural district areas, these should be considered initial priorities for conference center site discussions," states the report. "Given the close proximity of the two areas, we recommend considering the entire area as a project site. Development that may take place on the Quay site will certainly impact the performance of the cultural district, and the same is true in reverse. ¦

"Discussions should be held between (the) Quay, city, county and other key parties to assess land availability, public/private financing, center operational and related issues. With respect to the cultural district, discussions between city, county, symphony and other key parties should commence, particularly as the cultural district master-planning process continues.

"In the end, the site that offers the most desirable land parcel, opportunity for center design and most favorable funding plan (including both public and private sources) should be pursued.

"Lastly, the airport site is viewed as a secondary alternative at this time. If development in the Quay/cultural district area proves impossible, further consideration of the airport site should be given. Even if a conference center were to be developed at an alternative location, a hotel/meeting venue tied to the planned airport development may be economically viable."

Brilliant thinking. Worth $80K?

Paying their way

A comparison of the four remaining proposals to develop the city-owned property at Palm and Cocoanut avenues in downtown Sarasota, paints a rosy picture. The city's Washington, D.C.-based consultant, Economic Research Associates, projects that all of the proposed projects would have a huge economic impact in terms of both jobs and property tax revenue produced.

ERA research found that the proposals would generate from 200 to 400 construction jobs over three to five years, $16.6 million to $56.9 million in construction income and 80 to 500 permanent jobs. Those permanent jobs would generate as little as $2.7 million and as much as $20 million in annual wages. ERA found that net new tax revenue would range from $754,000 (Benderson Development Co.) to more than $2.5 million.

Even looking at the tax increment financing (TIF) requested by Arcadia Land Co. and Ersa Grae Corp., the paybacks were estimated to be less than 27% of the total new property tax revenue produced by each development.

But the report wasn't so rosy for one of the developers. The consultant found problems with Benderson's "La Scala" project. ERA gave high marks in architectural design to three of the developers, but it said that the La Scala design "is less than competing proposals." The consultant also stated that the Benderson plan conflicts with the downtown code for "Lack of required recess on Cocoanut Avenue; (and having a)... Form inconsistent with prescribed arcade along Palm Avenue."

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