The owner of the Hialeah, Fla., race track said Monday that he now owns 9.95% of the stock of Sun Savings & Loan Assn. and plans to file for regulatory permission to increase his holdings in the ailing San Diego-based company.
In a telephone interview Monday, New Jersey real estate developer John J. Brunetti, who is also president and chairman of Hialeah Inc., operator of the horse racing track, said his interest in Sun is for investment purposes only and that he is "not particularly" interested in attempting to take control of Sun.
"We'll probably file for permission (to increase our stock holdings)," he said, adding, however, that he doesn't know if he actually will buy additional Sun stock.
Brunetti, 54, purchased 7.4% of Sun's stock, or 88,400 shares, between Jan. 10 and 27, according to a document filed earlier this month with federal regulators.
This month, Brunetti's holdings in Sun have increased to more than 119,000 shares, or 9.95% of Sun's outstanding shares, he said Monday.
Regulators require a change-of-control filing for any investor owning more than 10% of a savings and loan's common stock.
Brunetti said he has "heard rumors" that a federal takeover of Sun is a possibility if continued losses drop Sun's net worth, or its excess of assets over liabilities, to below zero.
"I understand that the net worth continues to go down," he said. "But I haven't ruled out the possibility that I could contribute something good to the company to help growth. If there's anything I can do to help as a shareholder, I will."
Brunetti said he has had "no contact with Sun officials" about his stock purchases.
"I'm encouraged that there is such a bullish investor," said John McEwan, Sun president and chief executive. "But I haven't had any contact with him."
Brunetti said he has spent the last few summers vacationing at La Costa and became interested in Sun last summer after reading news reports and analyzing its financial records.
"I read that perhaps the company had a chance to reverse a downward trend, and that it would be a good investment," Brunetti said Monday.
He called Sun a "good investment (with) a good history in a good geographic location."
Sun's stock is trading at about $4 per share. In 1984, the stock traded as high as $17 per share.
Sun's net worth was $5.9 million as of Sept. 30. However, when year-end figures are released later this week, that figure could dip to between $1 million and $2 million, according to industry sources.
Regulators require a minimum net worth-to-assets ratio of 3%. In Sun's case, that would mean a net worth of about $12 million on its asset base of about $400 million.
A proposed capital infusion of $7 million by New York financier Van Greenfield and $2.47 million by local developer Victor Fargo would not bring Sun's net worth to $12 million if the year-end net worth is indeed between $1 million and $2 million.
Brunetti is a veteran developer and landlord, whose projects include several apartment complexes in Bergen County, an affluent suburban area in northeastern New Jersey.
His father, Joseph Brunetti, was a prominent builder from Hackensack who was a driving force in sparking suburban housing in northern New Jersey.
Brunetti has no business interests in Southern California, he said.
"I'm being passive. I enjoy being (in San Diego) for summers (and have) no plans to build in San Diego. I have enough things to do" on the East Coast, he said.
However, Brunetti said he was "very impressed with the San Diego area," and that he is familiar with some of the geographic areas where Sun has loans.
"I think that San Diego is a great area for growth," he said.