Published reports here say that Cole Taylor Financial Corp.'s sale talks have fizzled, and that the company's two founding families are contemplating dividing the company's bank and finance company.

The $2 billion-asset company's future has been up in the air since last fall. It reportedly was close to selling last month.

However, the recent report, in Crain's Chicago Business, cited unnamed sources as having said that now the Taylor family may acquire the company's Cole Taylor Bank, with the Cole clan getting a dominant stake in the company's subprime automobile financier, Reliance Acceptance Corp.

Lori Cole, a director, declined to comment. Ms. Cole, and daughter of co-founder Irwin Cole, has pushed the company to explore a merger.

Cole Taylor's vice president of communications, Philip Worley, who returned a call made to chief executive Jeffrey Taylor, also would not comment on the report. "The board is still reviewing alternatives," he said. "They're looking at a number of options, and they have not made a decision yet."

Chicago analyst Joan Goodman of Pershing & Co. said she had not heard the latest speculation. "It just seems highly unlikely to me," she said. "The finance company generally makes higher margins. I can't particularly see why the Taylors would hand over that portion of the business."

Ms. Cole wanted Cole Taylor to consider a merger or sale to maximize shareholder value. After initial resistance, co-founder Sidney Taylor's sons Bruce and Jeffrey agreed to hire the investment bankers.

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