First Commercial Bank of Florida was bent on aggressive growth from the outset and focused on making loans to developers.
Headed by chief executive Alan Rowe, who built and sold another Orlando bank before taking charge of First Commercial in 1999, the lender grew quickly.
Total loans increased six-fold, from $100 million in December 2001 to $605 million by December 2007.
Those loans included an "excessively large" number to developers and owners of office buildings, shopping centers and raw land, according to regulatory reports
"The board's strategy to have a considerable commercial real estate concentration without enhanced risk management procedures in place has adversely affected the bank," regulators wrote in their 2010 report. "Of primary concern is the board's failure to reduce the commercial real estate concentrations in light of weakening economic conditions and regulatory guidance before the onset of the recession."
When the market turned, bad loans started eating into First Commercial's capital cushion.
Rowe acted quickly by cutting staff, reducing salaries, selling performing loans and arranging a merger with a start-up bank in 2009. While Florida regulators approved the deal with Palm Harbor-based Anderen Bank, federal regulators were slow to act.
Five months after announcing the deal, Rowe expressed his frustration to the Orlando Sentinel.
"We are still jumping through hoops, but it's hard to get anywhere with Washington," Rowe said. "It's almost like some of them have written Florida off as some kind of black hole that will never recover. It's irrational, but it appears all the regulatory agencies are acting like that."
In the meantime, First Commercial's bad loans mounted and capital dwindled. In April 2010, regulators hit the bank with an enforcement agreement, demanding that it raise the money it could have had if only the FDIC had acted faster.