Thaddeus Wilcox, a career banker, has a lot to smile about after leading a group of South Florida businessmen in acquiring Peoples National Bank of Commerce.

Mr. Wilcox, president and chief executive officer of the Miami-based bank, said the acquisition returns Peoples to its previous status as the only minority-owned bank in Florida.

The bank, with $22 million in assets, had been owned by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as a result of its seizure of Southeast Bank, Miami, a unit of Southeast Banking Corp. Southeast had taken control of Peoples in a foreclosure.

Because Peoples was providing banking to a community that might not otherwise be served, the FDIC decided to separate the bank from Southeast and seek buyers that would keep it open.

"Peoples National probably is the only healthy, strong bank ever to be owned by the FDIC," said the 38-year-old Mr. Wilcox. "The complicated previous-ownership and loan-default situation, and then Southeast's demise, caused the agency to wind up owning the bank."

Mr. Wilcox said the problems that lead to the foreclosure were now behind, the public's confusion over the bank's status is over, the Peoples National is on a sound footing with strong ownership. He expressed confidence that the bank would become one of the success stories in Florida banking.

"The current management team will remain intact," said Mr. Wilcox, "but we'll be concentrating on new growth in providing banking services to low- and middle-income families."

Peoples plans to grow through consumer lending and expanding its small-business program. The bank's present market is 60% black.

A Management Background

Mr. Wilcox became a director of Peoples in 1979, and president and chief executive officer in 1989. He held several management positions with Southeast Bank of Miami from 1979 to 1989 but his office remained at Peoples.

The new owners of Peoples National, in addition to Mr. Wilcox, include Garth Reeves Sr., publisher of The Miami Times, the black community newspaper; William Armstrong, owner of Hollywood Ford; and Wayman Adkins, owner and chief executive officer of Consolidated Techniques, a contractor.

Mr. Wilcox has an MBA from the University of Miami and an undergraduate degree from Florida State University. He is active in the Florida Bankers Association, the Miami-Dade Urban Bankers Association, and other community groups.

"I've been in banking for 13 years," said Mr. Wilcox, "and my biggest challenge will be to grow the bank and provide continous service to the community."

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