UPDATE: Judge stops Nat Penn-1st Mariner deal

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National Penn Bancshares, Allentown, Pa., reportedly made the high bid for Baltimore's First Mariner Bancorp, offering $19.1 milllion in a bankruptcy auction.

TUESDAY UPDATE - National Penn says the First Mariner  deal is off, now that Bankruptcy Court has ordered a new auction. Nat Penn is still interested.

MONDAY: National Penn Bancshares, Allentown, Pa., made the high bid for Baltimore's First Mariner Bancorp, the largest bank still based in that former financial center, offering $19.1 milllion in a bankruptcy auction, reports the Allentown Morning Call here: "The deal must still be approved by a federal bankruptcy court judge and banking regulators. A hearing is scheduled for Monday in Baltimore's U.S. Bankruptcy Court."

The banks hope the deal will be closed by summer, Michael Hughes, Nat Penn CFO, told the paper, adding that the would-be buyer plans to expand business lending.  First Mariner operates 18 Baltimore-area branches and will keep its name. It was founded 19 years ago, as Maryland National Bank and other local institutions were being sold to out-of-state lenders, by Edwin F. Hale Sr. Hale made his millions in shipping and trucking, owns the Baltimore Blast soccer team, and still holds nearly 10% of First Mariner, whose stock trades at pennies a share, down from  a peak of around $20, the Call says. 

"National Penn's bid topping a competing bid from a group with Baltimore ties led by New York-based Priam Capital LLC," according to the Call, citing filings in the bank's Feb. 20 bankruptcy. Priam offered $4.8 million, and promised to invest up to $100 million if it succeeded. Creditors said that level of cash offer wasn't enough. "Priam's investment group included Patriot Financial Partners, GCP Capital Partners and TFO Financial Institutions Restructuring Fund LLC," among others. Patriot is the suburban Philadelphia bank-investment fund whose partners include former Philadelphia bankers James Lynch and Kirk Wycoff and investor Ira Lubert. As a consolation prize, the Priam group gets to split a $1 million breakup fee.

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