Four refugees from the takeover of Sears Mortgage Corp., Vernon Hills., Ill., have started a a home loan brokerage company in suburban Chicago with foreign financial backing.

The company, Mortgage Edge Corp., set up shop Dec. 1.

J. Clarke Smith, president and chief executive officer, expects to begin taking loans in early February. He said Mortgage Edge would seek seller/servicer approval from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as soon as possible.

Mr. Smith, who was chief financial officer at Sears, is one of four former Sears executives at Mortgage Edge.

The Key Players

Vivian Young, Mortgage Edge's new director of secondary marketing and investor relations, was in charge of Sears' asset portfolio department.

The new chief financial officer at Mortgage Edge, Dennis Klaeser, was Sears' compliance officer. And Lori Hendricks, another former Sears executive, is now Mortgage Edge's office manager.

They left Sears at the end of November, when PNC Bank Corp., Pittsburgh, took over.

"It was very bittersweet," said Mr. Smith of his departure from Sears Mortgage.

No Hard Feelings

But he said he had no ill will toward the lender.

"Sears Roebuck, in its restructuring move, has decided to get out of the financial services industry," he said. "It's proved to be the right move."

Looking for a new challenge, Mr. Smith shunned other high-level executive positions in favor of starting Mortgage Edge. He said he wanted the task of "building something from zero."

Mortgage Edge will begin by taking loans in the already competitive northern Chicago suburbs, Mr. Smith said. It will mainly focus on one- to four-family conforming conventional loans and some jumbos.

"We hope to be a reasonable retail player," Mr. Smith said. "We are not going to be a hell of a lot of competition nationally for Sears."

Saudi Connection

Multifinance Holding Corp., Alexandria, Va., is putting up the money for Mortgage Edge. Mr. Smith said Multifinance was the investment arm of a Saudia Arabian Sheikh whom he declined to identify.

He said one of the toughest tasks was choosing the company name. Several of the names he tried out in the national business registry were taken. "Mortgage Edge" worked.

"I think it even has some marketing play off it," he said.

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