Bank Plus of L.A. to Sell 3 Offices, Wants Buyer for Ailing Card Unit

Bank Plus Corp. said Tuesday that it seeks to shed its money-losing credit card business and plans to sell about one-fourth of its deposits in order to return to profitability.Los Angeles-based Bank Plus said it has a deal to sell three in-state branches, with about $172 million of deposits, to Jackson Federal Bank of San Bernardino, Calif., for an undisclosed sum.

Bank Plus, the $3 billion-asset parent of Fidelity Federal Bank, has lost tens of millions of dollars in the last two years because of problems in its subprime credit card portfolio. After losing $56 million in 1998, it reported this week that it had lost $24.9 million - or $1.28 per share - in 1999.

President and chief executive officer Mark K. Mason said Bank Plus also is exploring the sale of its card operation. Until then, it plans to use the proceeds from the branch sales "to mitigate the impact of credit card operating losses on the company's future results."

The branches it is selling are in Big Bear, Blue Jay, and Fullerton. The deal would more that double Jackson Federal's assets, to $349 million, and boost its deposits to $278 million.

Jackson Federal is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jackson National Life, a Lansing, Mich., insurer with $40 billion of assets. Its deal for the Fidelity Federal branches is expected to close this quarter.

- Alan Kline

Seeking Seat on Its Board, Investor Urges an Illinois Bank: Grow or Sell

An investor in a $314 million-asset Illinois bank said it should hire an investment adviser to find ways to spur growth and to explore sale possibilities.Barrett R. Rochman, who owns about 5.8% of Olney-based Community Financial Corp.'s stock, worth about $1.3 million, also said in a form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he plans to nominate himself and another outsider, Michael B. Nadler, for seats on the Community Financial board.

Mr. Rochman, a real estate investor who operates rental properties in Carbondale, Ill., said in the Feb. 4 filing that he has no plan to force a sale but is interested in exploring through an adviser what the company might be worth.

He said he met last month with Wayne Benson, Community Financial's president, to explore ways to improve performance. Mr. Rochman said he wants the company's subsidiaries to shift toward commercial lending and the company itself to consider acquisitions or start-ups in new markets.

- Craig Woker

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