Reversing its stance in early October, Cole Taylor Financial Group Inc. last week said it had retained investment bankers to evaluate its options, including a possible sale.

The disclosure comes after public disclosure of a disagreement between board members from two founding families over the Wheeling, Ill., company's future. Cole Taylor owns Cole Taylor Bank and Cole Taylor Finance Co., an automobile finance company.

In a brief statement issued Thursday, Cole Taylor said it had hired two investment banking firms "to evaluate the company's strategic alternatives, which will include the exploration of the possible merger or sale of the company."

Cole Taylor spokeswoman Tina Snider said the company would not comment further on the change of heart and declined to name the investment banks.

In response to the announcement, the company's Nasdaq stock price on Thursday closed at $27.50, up $1.25 to a 52-week high, before simmering down to $26.87 in late trading Friday.

Director Lori Cole, who had wanted the company to make such a move, said she was "very pleased" with the decision. "The board of directors did the right thing for the interest of all the shareholders," said the daughter of founder Irwin Cole.

Ms. Cole had previously said the company should investigate all its options, including selling, to maximize shareholder value. She has been a Cole Taylor director since her father became ill in July.

But Cole Taylor management has said the company would maintain its current course. Chairman and chief executive Jeffrey W. Taylor, son of the other founder, Sidney Taylor, said the company's existing strategies had brought a 67% return to investors since Cole Taylor went public 16 months ago.

The Coles and the Taylors each own roughly a quarter of the $1.2 billion-asset company's stock.

Also on Thursday, Cole Taylor reported that third-quarter earnings rose 38%, to $6.8 million, and nine-month earnings were up 37%, to $12.5 million.

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