It's been a long four months for Merrill Sherman and Malcolm "Kim" Chace 3rd. But it all paid off last week when they announced plans for the largest banking start-up in New England history.

After intense last-minute negotiating, the banking attorney and the Providence investor led an informal group of Rhode Island private and corporate investors that snatched up 13 branches and almost $500 million in deposits divested in the state by Fleet Financial Group Inc.

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