Michael Greco, managing director and head of First Union Corp.'s real estate capital markets group, has left the banking company and taken a team of bankers with him.

Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union announced internally Feb. 10 that Mr. Greco, Larry Brown, head of commercial real estate finance, and "several others" would be leaving for WMF Group Inc., a Vienna, Va.-based commercial mortgage banking firm.

Sources familiar with the situation said that 12 bankers left with Mr. Greco. A First Union spokeswoman declined to comment on that information.

Mr. Greco joined First Union four years ago from Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. to build up the real estate investment banking business.

In July, First Union added three regional origination offices-in Houston, Chicago, and Irving, Calif.-to its 19-office network. Shortly thereafter, First Union said it would start underwriting and securitizing permanent nonrecourse real estate debt.

The company had passed a milestone in November, co-leading the biggest commercial mortgage-backed securities ever: a $2.25 billion issue with Lehman Brothers.

"We've got extensive resources internally and are going to be able to continue now and significantly increase the level of origination business we have," said a First Union spokeswoman. She added that leadership announcements will be made soon.

"This business is a priority for our capital markets group and a core business for First Union," she said. Expansion to the commercial real estate finance programs would also be announced in the near future, the spokeswoman said.

WMF Group is an independent publicly traded mortgage financial services firm with a $10.9 billion portfolio.

On Feb. 3 the company announced the formation of WMF Capital Corp., a conduit securitization arm.

WMF also entered a two-year $500 million commitment for warehouse financing with Merrill Lynch Mortgage Capital Inc.

WMF was spun off in December by its parent, National Housing Partners Inc., a large manager of apartment properties.

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