San Diego Business Journal

ESCONDIDO , Palomar Community Bank's senior management said it has obtained an investor to buy the bank from its current owner, Community West Bancshares of Goleta.

Centennial First Financial Services of Redlands, parent company of Redlands Centennial Bank, is the buyer of the local lender, said Richard Sanborn, president and CEO of Palomar Community Bank.

He estimated the purchase price would be about $10.5 million. Palomar Community Bank, which opened in 1984, has one branch and about $75 million in assets, Sanborn said.

The purchase will be completed with a combination of cash and debt, he said. It's expected to close in mid-2001.

Palomar's management intends to keep all of the bank's 24 current employees, Sanborn said.

Lew Stone, president and CEO of Community West Bancshares, said proceeds from the Palomar sale would allow his company to commit more resources to its main subsidiary, Goleta National Bank.

Sanborn said the arrangement with Centennial would allow Palomar to retain its local independence and also allow it to offer a variety of new financial products.

Frank Riolo, president and CEO of Borrego Springs Bank of La Mesa, said he saw a similar situation at Palomar to the one he and other investors in Borrego Springs bank faced in 1989.

At the time, Bank of San Diego owned 51 percent of Borrego Springs Bank and Riolo's investor group bought it out so they could maintain local control.

Centennial First Financial will be buying a bank that is already in operation with assets and an experienced staff. That way, they can avoid the start-up costs associated with building a bank from scratch, Riolo said.