The parent company of United Legacy Bank in Winter Park, Fla., is buying a large stake in a rival bank in what appears to be the first step toward building a multi-bank holding company.

United Group Banking Company of Florida Inc. is paying $3 million for a 16% stake in Citizens Bancorp of Oviedo and its subsidiary, Citizens Bank of Florida, according to a report in the Orlando Business Journal Wednesday.

With the acquisition, United Group would become the largest shareholder in the $225 million-asset Citizens. The deal would also give United Group a stronger platform from which to carry out its plan to create a network of central Florida community banks.

"Ultimately, we will seek to form a multi-bank holding company amongst those institutions with who we share a common vision," United Group executive Dave Powers said in a statement to the Orlando paper.

United Group has owned a controlling stake in United Legacy Bank since 2010. The 11-year-old bank, which was known as Riverside Bank of Central Florida until United Group renamed it, has $187 million of assets and four branches in central Florida.

Prior to that acquisition, United Group owned majority stakes in two other central Florida community banks that were later sold to larger, out-of-state institutions.

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