When John Kanas arrived in South Florida last May as the savior of the state's largest homegrown bank, the $12.8 billion-asset BankUnited in Coral Gables, he did so with a wad of private-equity cash in his back pocket, a cushy loss-sharing agreement with regulators and a healthy dose of realism that "even our worst fears about the Florida market would be overly optimistic."
Nine months later, with real estate values still plummeting and unemployment in Florida approaching 12 percent, the former head of North Fork Bancorp has seen little to change his outlook for the state's banking industry. Eleven more banks have failed in Florida since BankUnited went down, for a total of 16 since mid-2008, and Kanas predicts that as many as 100 more banks and thrifts will fail there over the next couple of years. "The market is just devastated," Kanas says. "The patient is on life support."