California company puts capital in AmericanWest Bank

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A California holding company has infused $185 million of new capital into AmericanWest Bank as part of an acquisition that spared the Spokane-based firm from closure by regulators.

AmericanWest and its Far West Bank division in Utah have been acquired by SKBHC Holdings LLC.

"A new chapter for AmericanWest Bank begins now," said SKBHC chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott A. Kisting, in a Dec. 20 announcement.

As part of the acquisition, SKBHC purchased outstanding shares of the bank from the previous holding company, AmericanWest Bancorporation, for $6.5 million. The deal also included the $185 million capital injection to strengthen the company's position.

Kisting will serve as president and CEO of AmericanWest Bank, which operates four branches in Walla Walla, Waitsburg and Dayton. Patrick Rusnak, AmericanWest Bank's immediate past president and CEO, will stay on to assist through the transition. James R. Claffee will serve as the bank's chief operating officer.

Threatened with closure, AmericanWest had suffered losses on construction and real estate loans, according to reports.

Kisting said the new ownership will build on the existing foundation for a high-performing community bank.

"This is the start of a dynamic period of strengthening relationships with customers and expanding our franchise when possible," he said.

Kisting spearheaded the formation of SKBHC Holdings LLC in December 2009. The company has funding commitments of $750 million from major private equity investors, as well as public and private pension funds.

AmericanWest Bank operates in Walla Walla at 30 W. Main St. and 1850 Isaacs Ave.; in Waitsburg at 215 W. Main St.; and in Dayton at 427 E. Main St.

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