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John Kanas, President Bank United

July 11, 2014 @ 12:00 am EDT


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It was a pleasure to have an old friend of LIMBA return. John Kanas has the reputation of being unassuming and well-grounded and that is exactly what we saw this morning.


Mr. Kanas took us through the chronology of his development. He began as a middle school teacher doing reasonably well when he was offered a job as a bank teller which paid less than half of what he was earning as a teacher with a much shorter vacation. He refused the job but he had an ambition to earn his MBA and become a lawyer so he turned back for a moment and asked if they had a tuition reimbursement plan. They didn’t have such a program, but they wanted him work at this three branch, rural institution called North Fork Bank so they said yes. He took the job thinking I’ll hang around here until I get my MBA on their dime and then I will pursue law.


Someone once said “life is what happens while you are making other plans.”


To hear him tell his story, life is serendipity. That is to say your fortunes are found, whether or not you are looking for them. There is, of course, some truth to that notion, but successful people have vision and real skills. He found that he liked what he was now doing and was quite successful at it. His advancement eventually put him in charge as president and he began growing the bank until it became the large regional bank that was well known on Long Island and New York.


Mr. Kanas came to North Fork Bank when it could have been purchased for $1 million. It was eventually sold to Capital One for $16 Billion.


After he left Capital One John gave himself a time-out and later began looking for depressed banks to acquire for Wilbur Ross. Ross was an investor that looked for depressed companies. Among the banks that Kanas looked at was Bank United. He offered $1Billion for Bank United but the federal regulators said the bank was viable and was not available for sale. Then the crash came and the bank was in shambles. They called Kanas and his investors back. They eventually paid nearly a billion dollars. The day his team took over there were crowds of people on the street demanding their money. I suggested to John that the film “it’s a Wonderful Life” took on new meaning, he agreed.


The new entity is actually doing quite well at this point and is growing by $1 Billion every 90 days. Does lightning strike twice? Maybe.


Ernie Fazio


Today’s program was sponsored by Austin & Williams Advertising represented by Ken Greenberg and the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King represented by Bernard Kennedy


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