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Will Expand to 45 Offices : Spring Mountain Plans to Buy Security Pacific Escrow Arm

November 06, 1987|JAMES S. GRANELLI | Times Staff Writer

Spring Mountain Escrow, a regional Newport Beach-based escrow firm owned by financier Frank O'Bryan, has agreed to buy the escrow arm of Security Pacific National Bank for an undisclosed price.

The acquisition, scheduled to close at the end of the month, will give Spring Mountain $12 million in annual revenues, 200 employees and 45 offices from Santa Maria to the Mexican border--more offices than any independent escrow company in the nation.

The deal, which has been negotiated for several months, was suggested by Security Pacific, which has been shedding some of its peripheral businesses in recent years.

O'Bryan--whose grandfather started Spring Mountain's predecessor--said he was in the midst of launching a planned expansion of Spring Mountain into Hawaii when "Security Pacific came to us in June about the deal." The expansion was put on hold while talks with Security Pacific went on, but O'Bryan said the company's plan to be operating interstate by 1990 still is on schedule, with new offices planned for Hawaii, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

No other areas are targeted for expansion because escrow operations in the rest of the nation are generally handled through financial and title companies, he said.

The escrow division was not a core operation for Security Pacific, and the bank was not a major player in the field, a spokeswoman said in explaining the decision to sell.

O'Bryan said, however, that he will be parking his firm's escrow deposits at Security Pacific, and he expects the bank to generate some business for Spring Mountain.

Spring Mountain now has about 100 employees generating $7 million in revenues out of 25 offices in Southern California.

O'Bryan, 54, was a majority owner of Spring Mountain's predecessor, Western Pacific Financial Corp., which he sold to the old Shearson Hayden Stone brokerage house for $16 million in 1979. He repurchased the company from Shearson/American Express for an undisclosed sum in December, 1985.

He renamed the escrow company Spring Mountain--after a street in Napa County where he once had a home. O'Bryan said the firm has continued to increase its revenues and profits since 1985, but he would not reveal the company's net income.

In 1954, after graduating from the University of Arizona, O'Bryan joined his grandfather's San Bernardino business, then called Southern California Mortgage & Loan Corp. He became president in 1967 and, with his mother, took the company public in 1971. The two held half the shares.

The company was renamed Western Pacific in 1973 and moved to Newport Beach a few years later.

When he sold the company, which eventually became known after a series of mergers as Shearson/American Express Mortgage Co., O'Bryan remained as its chairman. He also received stock in Shearson Hayden Stone, which became much more valuable after it merged with American Express.

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