Sanwa Bank California wants to bring the resources of its formidable Japanese parent to Hollywood.
The $7.8 billion-asset Los Angeles subsidiary of the Osaka-based banking giant this month became the latest bank to seek the business of the stars and the financing of their films-hiring the executive who ran First Interstate Bancorp's entertainment division.
The bank also just opened a chic, new branch in the heart of the city of glitter-Beverly Hills. All of the bank's entertainment-related business will be managed out of that office.
"We can bring Hollywood to the Orient, and their capital to Hollywood," said Gene Galloway, Sanwa's executive vice president for retail and community banking.
Leading the charge will be J. Kendall Whiting, vice president of commercial banking, who brings 27 years of banking experience to the job, including 11 years at First Interstate. His last five years with the Los Angeles bank were spent at the helm of its entertainment division-housed in Beverly Hills, just two blocks away from Sanwa's new office.
"We are now the largest L.A.-based bank," Mr. Whiting said, "and since L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world, it stands to reason that we should be a significant player in the business." Beverly Hills' City National Corp., known as the bank of the stars, is the largest independent bank based in Los Angles County, with $4.2 billion of assets.
Sanwa does not expect to threaten City National's prominence in entertainment lending, but intends to carve out a profitable niche. The entertainment production business in Los Angeles County has grown by 20% in the past year, bank officials said.
Specifically, the bank expects to finance the smaller, independent films in the $3 million to $5 million range, Mr. Galloway said, rather than rolling the dice on one big $50 million project.
"There is a plethora of bones in Hollywood," Mr. Galloway said. "Things can look fantastic for a while, and then everything self-destructs. That's not our game."
The bank hopes to have about 10 people in the office within the next couple of years, building a $200 million book of business, Mr. Galloway estimated.
The parent company, which has $470 billion of assets and an international presence-particularly on the Pacific Rim-should facilitate the international distribution process of the film business as well as the raising of capital from foreign investors, officials said. Sanwa has already been in the entertainment business, but in a minor way, such as financing the packaging of films, officials said.