RTC Picks Buyer of Big Servicing Portfolio

The Resolution Trust Corp. is about to sell the largest mortgage banking company under its control to an investor group backed in part by Texas billionaires Sid and Lee Bass.

The San Antonio-based company, BancPlus Mortgage Corp., is to be bought for more than $100 million by a group led by Herbert L. Carrel, its chief executive, according to industry sources. The sale will reduce the government's mortgage servicing portfolio by almost 10%, to $84 billion.

Seized in '89

The investor group beat three other bidders, including Goldman, Sachs & Co., and is now in final negotiations with the bailout agency, the sources said.

The RTC took control of BancPlus Mortgage when its parent, BancPlus Savings, was seized in March 1989.

BancPlus Mortgage, the nation's 24th largest servicer of mortgages, funnels monthly payments on about $10 billion of mortgages from homeowners to holders of mortgage-backed securities.

Mortgage industry sources said the contest for BancPlus Mortgage came down to the Carrel group and Affiliated Computer Systems, a Dallas-based data processor that is eager to enter the servicing business. Affiliated declined to comment.

In addition to Affiliated and Goldman, a group organized by Dallas-based mortgage banker Stan Bomar also made it to the final rounds of bidding, sources said.

After weeks of negotiations, the Carrel group last Friday signed "a definitive letter of intent" to buy the company, one source said. Others, however, cautioned that there are still some issues to resolve before the closing.

Mr. Carrel declined to comment on either his plans or the bidding.

However, James Walsh, a vice president at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., confirmed that the RTC wants to close a deal with Mr. Carrel's group by Sept. 16. Donaldson Lufkin is brokering the mortgage unit for the RTC. Mr. Walsh declined to comment further.

Mr. Carrel is a veteran mortgage banker who for more than two years has expressed a desire to buy the BancPlus unit when it came to market.

The extent of Sid and Lee Bass's backing of his group is unclear. But the purchase is believed to mark the brothers' first foray into mortgage banking. Some industry sources speculate that the brothers will use BancPlus as a beachhead for further pushes into the industry.

Sid and Lee Bass did not return phone calls for comment.

Another Bass brother, Robert, acquired Stockton, Calif.-based American Savings in a government-assisted deal in 1988. He also once considered buying Commonwealth Mortgage of America, another large Texas mortgage servicer, from the RTC but dropped those plans.

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