Robert Redford is acting in a new role-but it won't be coming to a theater near you.

Last month, the 59-year-old actor and film director became a bank investor, buying convertible preferred stock that gives him a 4.1% stake in $106 million-asset National Mercantile Bancorp. His investment was made under the aegis of his production company's profit-sharing plan.

Mr. Redford paid about $500,000 for stock in the struggling Southern California bank; the shares were sold to current stockholders and outside investors as part of an offering to raise $9 million of new capital.

The largest single stake was bought for about $4.5 million by businessman and banker Carl Pohlad, chairman and chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based Marquette Bancshares. The investment gives him a 36.7% stake in National Mercantile and the right to board representation, but he will not control the board, officials said.

Besides the two big-name investors, the Los Angeles-based banking company's existing shareholder base coughed up $3 million for preferred stock, about twice what bank officials had expected. Other institutional and high-net-worth investors bought the remaining $1 million of stock.

"We are delighted to have Carl Pohlad and Robert Redford as investors, and we are extremely pleased with the response we've received from our current shareholders," said National Mercantile president and chief executive officer Scott A. Montgomery.

With the stock purchase, Mr. Redford becomes the latest in a line of sports and entertainment industry figures to invest in or buy a community bank. Mr. Redford could not be reached for comment because he was filming in Montana.

Mr. Montgomery said he hopes Mr. Redford's involvement will give the company a boost; it already specializes in entertainment industry lending.

The successful recapitalization is the latest step in the recovery of National Mercantile, which lost $23.7 million from 1991 through 1996.

National Mercantile plans to use the capital to double its size, expanding into Southern California's multimedia and technology markets during the next year, Mr. Montgomery said.

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