Atlantic Coast Financial (ACFC) in Jacksonville, Fla., has picked a veteran of Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) and the former Wachovia to be its new chief executive.

John Stephens will become president and CEO of Atlantic Coast and its banking unit provided he is approved by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, the company said Wednesday. He would take over from Thomas Wagers, who has been interim CEO since July.

Stephens is currently president and CEO of Tower Bridge Capital, a mezzanine debt and advisory firm in Orlando, Fla. From 2006 through 2011, he was chief lending officer for Fifth Third's affiliate banks in central and north Florida. From 1986 through 2006, he worked for Wachovia, holding a variety of positions.

Stephens "is a proven leader who brings significant banking experience to our company, including working in our northeast Florida market," said Jay Sidhu, an investor in Atlantic Coast. "During his more than 23 years in the financial industry, he has been a key player in all aspects of the banking industry, advancing to virtually every critical position in a bank's structure."

Interim CEO Wagers will continue serving as Atlantic Coast's chief financial officer after Stephens joins the company, he said. He was named interim CEO following the resignation of G. Thomas Frankland, who was part of a shake-up that also saw three directors leave the board.

The shake-up followed the failure of a proposed merger with Bond Street Holdings, which a group of dissident shareholders, led by Sidhu and Bhanu Choudhrie, opposed.

Two Sidhu-backed nominees, including new Chairman John Dolan, joined Atlantic Coast's board on Aug. 30.

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