WARREN - A federal bankruptcy court judge on Friday approved the sale of Warren-based First Place Bank to Michigan-based Talmer Bancorp.
Talmer Chief Financial Officer Dennis Klaeser said he believes there is little likelihood the transfer would not receive federal regulatory approval, the next step in finalizing the deal. He expects that process to occur by the end of the year.
The sale was approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware after Talmer emerged as the only qualified bidder for the bank, which is the main asset of First Place Financial Corp.
Talmer bid $45 million and said it would infuse more than $200 million in capital to move the company out of bankruptcy. Talmer also promised to cover First Place's debt in the amount of $60 million.
''We will infuse the additional capital and help refocus the company and get it back on track,'' Klaeser said Friday. ''The bank will be very focused on reaching out to the community, lending to small businesses and families.''
Public trading of shares of First Place Financial Corp., First Place Bank's parent company, will continue. Talmer Bancorp. is not publicly traded, but Klaeser noted that could change in the future.
''There's no specific plans at this point. It's a possibility that we would be publicly traded in the future,'' Klaeser said.
For now though, Talmer's private shares are controlled by investors that include billionaire Wilbur Ross of W.L. Ross & Co., who owns more than 20 percent of the bank's shares, Klaeser said.
Sam Roth, chairman for First Place Financial Corp., said Friday that the future of First Place Financial Corp. shares, now being traded in over-the-counter markets as FPFCQ, will be dependent on the bankruptcy court proceedings. He declined to speculate further.
First Place Financial Corp. stock rose 1 cent Friday to close at 2 cents per share.
Roth expressed his pleasure with the bank sale approval, and noted that earlier objections raised by a committee appointed to oversee the due process were overcome and the matter resolved.
''They were very satisfied and very positive about the sale going through,'' Roth said.
Going forward, Talmer officials say they will maintain the First Place Bank name and retain most local employees.
''Customers really should not expect to see significant changes,'' Klaeser said. ''We are going to be keeping the name of the company First Place Bank. There should not be any significant changes in the employee base. They will continue to see the same friendly people that they saw at the bank.''