First of America Bank Corp. has acquired a stake in a money management firm that specializes in international investments.

The Kalamazoo, Mich., banking company last week paid $4.6 million cash for 49% of Gulfstream Global Investors. The firm, based in Houston, oversees $160 million of assets, including $100 million in international investment portfolios.

First of America bought its stake in Gulfstream from a unit of Rosewood Investments, a trust representing the Hunt family of Texas, said Richard A. Wolf, president of First of America Investment Corp.

With the investment, First of America becomes the latest in a string of banking companies that have expanded money management operations by buying asset management firms.

Unlike mutual fund organizations that market to the masses, asset management firms like Gulfstream focus on a narrow range of institutional investors, government agencies, pension funds, and wealthy individuals. And these firms can be easier for banks to digest, because they tend to be privately run and they trade at slightly lower prices than fund companies.

Asset management firms combine "a hoard of assets with very capable investment managers," said Eli Neusner, a consultant at Cerulli Associates, Boston.

Banks that have bought such firms in the past year include PNC Bank Corp., Meridian Bank Corp., and Keycorp.

Gulfstream's principals include managing partner Thomas Tull, who oversaw international investments for LTV Corp. in the 1980s. Mr. Tull and the firm's three other top executives own the remaining 51% of Gulfstream and will stay with the company, said First of America's Mr. Wolf.

He said the banking company is moving quickly to establish ties between its own Parkstone Funds and the Gulfstream organization.

The bank on Tuesday transferred oversight of its international fund from a Scottish firm to Gulfstream, after the fund's directors blessed the move.

Gulfstream will also oversee new international and global funds that First of America expects to launch.

"We have long-term objectives to be a strong money manager, and you must have a strong international arm to do that," Mr. Wolf said.

First of America also sees ways to boost sales of its Parkstone Funds through Gulfstream. The money management firm's clients include smaller retirement plans that could use Parkstone funds as investment options, Mr. Wolf said.

Mr. Wolf declined to say how much First of America expected to earn from the various alliances it is forming with Gulfstream. Right now, the banking company stands to receive a share of profits from Gulfstream's overall operation and a slice of commissions and money management fees from Gulfstream's oversight of the Parkstone international fund, industry analysts said.

First of America has the option of solidifying its relationship with Gulfstream by eventually purchasing the company. That transaction would be preceded by a gradual increase in ownership, according to the bank company's contract with Gulfstream's principals.

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