CEO of Chicago Lender Dies in Apparent Suicide

CHICAGO - Bruce C. Abrams, co-founder, chairman, and chief executive of Prism Financial Corp., died Sunday in an apparent suicide.Mr. Abrams founded Prism in 1992 with Terry Markus, president of the company's Illinois division. The company, which went public in May, was ranked 13th among retail mortgage originators last year, with $8.3 billion.

Mr. Abrams, 38, was also well-known in the Chicago area as a commercial real estate developer.

Patrick Camden, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said Mr. Abrams climbed over a guardrail and fell to his death from the 18th-floor balcony of a Chicago apartment house. The police found a suicide note, he said.

At midday Monday, the medical examiner had yet to rule the death a suicide, Mr. Camden said.

At a meeting Sunday night, Prism's board of directors named Richard L. Wellek chairman and Mark A. Filler CEO. Mr. Wellek is a board member; Mr. Filler has been a senior executive at Prism for five and a half years and president since January.

Prism's stock price fell drastically on the news of Mr. Abrams' death. Early Monday it was trading at $3.28125, off 59%.

First American of Calif. Forecasts 4Q, 1Q Losses

SANTA ANA, Calif. - First American Financial Corp. said it expects to report loss for the fourth and first quarters.The title insurer cited "the impact of the current interest rate environment on the real estate market, seasonal fluctuations, and costs associated with continuing adjustment to declining new-order counts."

First American also said its board of directors had approved the repurchase of 5% of its outstanding common stock. In a statement, the company's president, Parker S. Kennedy, said, "We believe our shares are significantly undervalued."

Early Monday, the company's stock was down 6.02%, at $12.6875.

N.Y. Firm Invests $51M For Control of Capstead

DALLAS - Fortress Investment Management LLC, a real estate investment and asset management company based in New York, said last week that it has invested $51.2 million in Capstead Mortgage Corp.Fortress bought two classes of convertible preferred stock from the Dallas real estate investment trust.

If converted to common stock, the investment would give Fortress a 16% stake in Capstead.

Capstead also said its board of directors had authorized the purchase of 10 million common shares, or 18% of shares outstanding, for $4.55 per share, a 23% premium over last Thursday's closing price.

Once the buyback is completed, Fortress' potential stake would increase to 19%.

Two Fortress executives were immediately named to Capstead's board.

Aames Chooses System For Its LendingTree Site

LOS ANGELES - Aames Financial Corp. said Monday that it will use the automated underwriting system of ARC Systems for loans it originates through the LendingTree Web site.Under the agreement, the home equity lender gives Austin, Tex.-based ARC its credit and pricing guidelines. When an application is submitted to the automated underwriting system, a decision is made within seconds, determined by the Aames parameters. If the application does not fall within the guidelines, it is tagged for manual underwriting.

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