Standard Federal Bancorp. said it completed its merger with Bell Bancorp, of Chicago.

Standard Federal paid $354 million in cash for $1.9 billion-asset Bell. The purchase price equaled 1.2 times book value.

Total assets for the merged bank are about $15.2 billion.

Standard Federal, the Midwest's largest thrift institution and the leading residential mortgage lender in Michigan, operates a retail franchise including 180 banking centers, 11 home lending centers, and more than 370 automated teller machines.

The bank also has 28 mortgage origination offices through its InterFirst wholesale mortgage banking division, and now has branches in southern Michigan, northern Indiana, northern Ohio, and the Chicago area.

"Combining the Bell franchise with our own enables us to expand our customer base into the greater Chicago area, increase the number of accounts we serve and further improve our operating efficiency," said Thomas R. Ricketts, president and chief executive at Standard Federal.

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