Lee Bradley, who has spent much of the last two decades raising start-up capital for banks, is turning his energies to recapitalizing them.

Bradley, who said he has helped "birth" more than 130 banks since 1987, announced last week that he is leaving Commerce Street Capital LLC to start Southeast Financial Holdings Inc. in Duluth, Ga.

At Commerce Street, Bradley was the face of a division based in Atlanta that raises money for young institutions. His new firm will focus almost exclusively on secondary offerings for banks nationwide — a field in which Bradley said there is plenty of business, given the number of institutions that either cannot get Troubled Asset Relief Program funds from the government or did get Tarp aid but want to replace it with private capital.

"We saw an explosion of de novo banks over the last five to 10 years," he said. "So now there is an explosion of banks that need to be recapitalized that didn't qualify for Tarp and need capital literally to survive. And you have another group that got Tarp money that are going to want to pay the government back sooner rather than later."

Bradley joined Commerce Street Capital in 2005. Before that he ran a firm that was also called Southeast Financial Holdings.

The new firm is considering acquiring a broker-dealer, Bradley said.

Some controversy has surrounded Commerce Street's capital-raising division for start-ups.

A report in the Charlotte Business Journal said that the organizing investors in Legacy Bank, a Charlotte start-up that never got off the ground, had sued in state court this year naming several defendants, including Commerce Street. The investors alleged that Legacy's chief executive officer had misled them by overstating the amount of money he had raised.

Bradley and a representative of Commerce Street said the pending lawsuit was not the reason he left the company. Commerce Street, which is headquartered in Dallas, said it disputes the lawsuit's claims.

Charles Ingram, the managing director of bank development at Commerce Street, said it has promoted Derek Cunningham, a six-year company veteran, to the post formerly held by Bradley.

Cunningham's experience, Ingram said, will let the Atlanta office offer a broader range of services, including secondary offerings, raising capital for mergers and acquisitions, managing and disposing of assets and providing stock valuations and fairness opinions.

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