John Kanas
John Kanas Bloomberg News

It's the end of an era for BankUnited.

John A. Kanas will step aside as president and chief executive of BankUnited on Jan. 1, the Miami Lakes, Fla., company announced in a press release Wednesday. Rajinder Singh, BankUnited's chief operating officer, will succeed Kanas on that date. Kanas is expected to remain chairman.

For nearly three decades, Kanas ran North Fork Bancorp in Melville, N.Y., turning it into a regional powerhouse through a string of acquisitions and notorious efficiency before selling it to Capital One Financial in March 2006 for nearly $15 billion. After spending less than a year at Capital One, he left to eventually take over BankUnited when a group of private equity firms bought the failed Florida thrift in May 2009.

Kanas took the reconstituted BankUnited public in January 2011; the company now has more than $26 billion in assets. There were some bumps along the way; Capital One filed a lawsuit against Kanas in mid-2011 claiming he violated a 2007 noncompete agreement when BankUnited struck a deal to buy Herald National Bank in New York.

Kanas and a top lieutenant eventually agreed to pay $20 million to settle the litigation. Under terms of the settlement, BankUnited agreed to abstain from opening any branches in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut until Jan. 31, 2013. Once that date passed, Kanas aggressively opened branches and poached talent from other New York banks.

BankUnited now has more loans outstanding in New York than it does in Florida.

Singh, meanwhile, has longstanding ties to Kanas, serving as head of corporate strategy and development at North Fork from February 2005 until December 2006. Singh, who briefly worked at Capital One after it bought North Fork, also led the financial services practice at WL Ross & Co. when the firm participated in BankUnited's recapitalization.

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