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BankUnited reopening today with new owners, more capital

Without missing a beat, BankUnited will reopen this Friday morning with a new owner and a whole lot more capital.

Dozens of federal regulators swept in to BankUnited’s offices in Coral Gables on Thursday afternoon after the close of business and seized the teetering thrift, capping a yearlong odyssey to revive the $13-billion asset institution.

New York banker John Kanas and a group of private equity firms won a bidding contest to acquire BankUnited in a sale run by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

BankUnited, the largest financial institution based in Florida, will reopen all 85 branches for regular business hours Friday morning under the new ownership.

In Manatee, there is one BankUnited branch at 7216 Manatee Ave W. in the Beachway Plaza shopping center.

“Tomorrow it will be business as usual,’’ said Kanas, the new CEO who envisions building the freshly capitalized institution into a dominant banking force in Florida.

“All the branches will be open and operating as normal.’’

BankUnited, dragged down by risky home mortgages that fizzled in the housing downturn, is the largest bank to succumb to loan losses this year and the third largest in assets to fail in the current downturn after IndyMac and Washington Mutual.

The collapse of the thrift will cost the FDIC insurance fund an estimated $4.9 billion.

In the current downturn, only the IndyMac failure cost the FDIC fund more, with a hit of $11 billion.

All customers’ deposits are safe at the new institution, which will keep the BankUnited name.

BankUnited’s shareholders, however, aren’t so lucky:

Their equity is likely wiped out.

BankUnited Financial Corp., the parent company which has about $550 million in debt, filed for bankruptcy-court protection to provide a process to pay off creditors.

As federal seizures go, BankUnited turned out to be a low-key affair. It offered none of the spectacle of the 1990 collapse of notorious CenTrust Savings Bank, where regulators marched into the downtown Miami tower and lit it up in red, white and blue.

Instead, a team of luggage-laden regulators from the Office of Thrift Supervision and the FDIC strolled into the headquarters at 255 Alhambra Circle in small groups over the late afternoon and evening hours.

The most visible evidence of a seizure was a group of armed security guards waiting in cars outside.

In the penthouse, the regulators met cordially with CEO Ramiro Ortiz, who has been working closely with the Office of Thrift Supervision and the FDIC for months to find fresh capital for the thrift. Ortiz signed more papers than a typical home buyer taking out a mortgage.

“The real theme here is we have a recapitalized brand new bank,’’ said Ortiz. “Nothing changes here except we’ve got a lot of capital.’’

Ortiz, a former SunTrust executive who joined the bank six years ago and became CEO last October, plans to stay on at BankUnited and work with Kanas. “Ramiro will be crucial to me in getting to know the community,’’ Kanas said.

Regulators’ decision to pick the Kanas group is a positive sign for private equity firms, which pool money from wealthy investors to make acquisitions.

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