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) --

Bank of America

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has cinched a deal to sell its First Republic private bank, despite

recent indications

that selling the business was not a top priority.

A group of investors, led by First Republic Chairman and founding CEO James Herbert, and including the private equity firms Colony Capital and General Atlantic, have agreed to buy the business for a reported price of $1 billion. President and Chief Operating Officer Katherine August-deWilde and the rest of the management team will also remain in their current positions.

BofA confirmed the deal Wednesday afternoon after reports circulated earlier in the day. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

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First Republic came to BofA as part of the

Merrill Lynch

acquisition that closed on Jan. 1. Merrill had purchased the bank for $1.7 billion in 2007.

The reported $1 billion price tag reflects the beating that financial holdings took last year. Still, First Republic, which serves high-net-worth individuals mostly in California, Nevada and New York, wasn't involved in many of the toxic assets that crippled other banks. The winning bid reportedly trumped a competing offer from buyout firms Carlyle Group,


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and TPG.

As of Sept. 30, First Republic had $19 billion in total assets, $16 billion in deposits, and $15 billion in wealth management assets under management. Because BofA doesn't break out First Republic's results, it's difficult to tell how the business has been performing.

The "all other" division that includes First Republic posted a hefty loss of $1.6 billion last quarter, largely due to negative revaluations of Merrill structured notes, and a $400 million fee paid to the government. For the first nine months of 2009, the division has swung to a $2 billion profit from a $711 million loss in the same time frame last year.

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York