Gerald Lewis, who stirred considerable controversy in Florida as the state's elected banking chief, has joined a fledgling firm that plans to help community banks deal with problem loans.
Mr. Lewis has signed on as president of Value Recovery/Tecton Alliance Inc., an asset recovery firm with offices in Ohio and Florida.
The move comes just months after he was ousted in a hotly contested election last November for the Florida comptroller's seat. Mr. Lewis was seeking an unprecedented sixth consecutive term.
"He brings to us such a wealth of experience," said Barry Fromm, vice chairman of Value Recovery/Tecton. "We thought we needed somebody with the stature and reputation. He is highly regarded and understands the regulatory structure and issues."
Mr. Lewis, who could not be reached for comment, was hired after being approached by George Firestone, Florida's former secretary of state, who is chairman of the company.
The new post moves Mr. Lewis far from the public eye. As Florida's comptroller, he was the nation's only elected state banking chief. He was attacked for allegedly taking illegal gifts from bankers and doing favors for bankers who contributed to his campaign. Some legislators had sought to have him impeached.
Mr. Fromm said he doesn't put much credence in the allegations.
"I'm very comfortable about who he is," Mr. Fromm said.
Mr. Fromm said the firm, formed about a year ago, will work out problem loans, buy and sell assets, service assets, manage property, and collect on charged-off loans and judgments.
"We felt the market was really underserved," said Mr. Fromm, who heads another firm that does asset management and recovery work for the Resolution Trust Corp.
Community bankers, he said, "don't have the internal resources to deal with problem assets. Many banks would charge off a loan and never go back to try to collect on it again."
Mr. Fromm said he hopes that Mr. Lewis will use his contacts to reel in new customers.
The asset recovery service is a "hard-sell kind of thing," Mr. Fromm said. "It is not coming easy. We think Gerald commands ... respect. His reputation can be very helpful, particularly with his counterparts at the state level."