Belvedere Capital Partners Inc. has announced an agreement to buy a 51% stake in Cerritos Valley Bancorp, a $126 million-asset bank in Norwalk, Calif.

The San Francisco venture capital firm said it would buy 543,959 shares of Cerritos Valley common stock and get warrants for 86,000 shares more. The value of the transaction is $12.8 million.

Richard W. Decker Jr., president and co-founder of Belvedere Capital, said the deal would expand the venture fund's presence in Southern California. "The bank has a strong management team and an impressive record of growth and profitability in its markets," he said.

Belvedere Capital, which was formed to invest in small California community banks and thrifts, has bought four banks and acquired majority stakes in two others since February 1997.

The $160 million fund-which is stacked with such blue-chip investors as the California Public Employees' Retirement System and Hearst Corp. Master Trust-intends to buy stakes of 10% to 100% in seven to 10 community banks in the next four years.

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