After saving his Washington bank from failure through an ingenious bankruptcy strategy, Patrick Rusnak has been scooped up by an in-city competitor.

Rusnak, the former chief executive of the $1.5 billion-asset AmericanWest Bancorp. in Spokane, has a new role after Sterling Financial Corp., also in Spokane, hired him last week to be chief financial officer.

AmericanWest had lined up $185 million in private equity last year but was unable to resolve an impasse with the holders of its trust-preferred securities, who refused to exchange at a discount. Lacking the cooperation of all stakeholders, the company instead filed for bankruptcy protection, and the bank was auctioned off to SKBHC Holdings LLC in December for $6.5 million.

"Pat Rusnak has extensive financial service industry experience and brings with him a long track record of success," Greg Seibly, Sterling's CEO, said in a press release Friday, while noting Rusnak's innovative strategy to secure capital. "His expertise and resolve will benefit Sterling as our company moves forward."

The $9.5 billion-asset Sterling has faced its own challenges, though it has slowly regained momentum. It completed a $700 million recapitalization in August and had a regulatory consent order lifted shortly thereafter. It narrowed its loss by 26% in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter, as credit quality improved. At Dec. 31, Sterling had a leverage ratio of 10.1%.

Rusnak joined AmericanWest in 2006 as chief operating officer. He was named chief financial officer a year later, then became CEO in July 2008 after the company ousted his predecessor.

At Sterling, he succeeds Daniel Byrne, who had been CFO since 1983. Byrne is to transfer into a role as corporate development executive. In that capacity, he is to focus on Sterling's external growth and development strategies, the company said.

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