Brickell Bank is poised to get new ownership six years after its parent went through a bailout that resonated in European financial markets.
Brickell Bank, housed in Miami’s Brickell Arch building at 1395 Brickell Ave., is to be purchased by the Geneva-based Benhamou banking family. Joseph Benhamou and his family own a majority stake in Geneva-based bank Compagnie Bancaire Helvetique S.A.
While a stock purchase agreement has been signed, the deal isn’t final and a purchase price won’t be disclosed until after regulatory approval.
The sale of Brickell Bank had been expected for years after its principal shareholder, Portugal-based Banco Espirito Santo S.A. was broken up in 2014.
The Portuguese bank’s holding company, Espirito Santo International, filed for bankruptcy, citing $8.4 billion in debt, and the money-losing bank was bailed out by Portugal. Banco Espirito Santo is in liquidation and was to sell its ownership of Brickell Bank, said Dindy Yokel, Brickell Bank spokeswoman.
Brickell Bank previously was named Espirito Santo Bank and rebranded itself in 2015 in part to distance itself from its past, Yokel said.
“Since Espirito Santo Bank in Miami had done nothing wrong, the best way to distance themselves was to rebrand,” she said.
The bank was a joint venture partner in grocery factoring company E.S. Bankest, which ran a $170 million fraud that inflated the value of collateral to obtain loans from Espirito Santo Bank. Federal prosecutors charged nine defendants in 2003, and ex-chairman Eduardo Orlansky received a 20-year prison sentence. Espirito Santo sued E.S. Bankest auditor BDO Seidman and reached a confidential settlement.
Brickell Bank, chartered in 1973, provides wealth management, personal and corporate banking, residential and commercial real estate lending, insurance and trade finance services. It has a large clientele from Latin America.
“It’s a generational bank. The grandparents have been banking with the company for eons and now their kids and now the third generation,” Yokel said.
Shutts & Bowen partner Bryan Wells in Miami represented Brickell Bank. Greenberg Traurig shareholder Carl A. Fornaris represented the Benhamou family.
G. Frederick Reinhardt, chairman and CEO of Brickell Bank, will remain head of the bank, and no staff changes are planned, Yokel said.
Benhamou “is a superb catalyst for our growth and rededication to serving our customers,” Reinhardt said in a news release.
The Brickell Bank sale would give the family a foothold in the Latin American market.