AmericanWest to sell bank; parent company files bankruptcy

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In a new twist on salvage efforts for Washington financial institutions, AmericanWest Bancorporation said last week it will file for Chapter 11 protection while arranging a sale of its 58-branch bank.

The bank will be sold to California-based SKBHC Holdings for $6.5 million, unless a higher bid emerges in a bankruptcy-court auction, AmericanWest said in a statement.

SKBHC has pledged to recapitalize the bank with up to $200 million more to satisfy requirements imposed by the bank's federal and state regulators, AmericanWest said.

The changes won't affect customers of AmericanWest Bank, said Pat Rusnak, president and CEO of the parent company.

SKBHC gained approval Tuesday from the Federal Reserve Board to become a bank holding company and to acquire the parent company of tiny First National Bank of Starbuck, in the Minnesota town of the same name.

The Fed announcement said SKBHC "plans to acquire institutions primarily in the Pacific Northwest, West Coast and the Southwest."

Regulatory filings show SKBHC is led by Scott Kisting, of Corona Del Mar, Calif., a former top Wells Fargo banking executive.

Bloomberg News reported in May that SKBHC had a $100 million commitment from the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois, plus money from private equity firm Oaktree Management and a unit of Goldman Sachs.

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