In 1981, William “Bill” Dallas founded mortgage lender First Franklin, and for nearly 30 years, he led the company through multiple ownership changes before its final owner, Merrill Lynch, closed it in 2008. Since then, Dallas was involved in a number of mortgage-related companies, and while he wasn’t in the business of writing loans, he kept himself busy with other projects. Now he’s back. If he’s successful in his newest venture, Skyline Financial, Dallas believes he can change how borrowers and the mortgage industry do business. Dallas, an Ohio native, graduated with a liberal arts degree from Bowling Green State University in 1977, but wasn’t sure what to do with his life. He eventually developed a passion for mortgage origination, which led him to California and to starting First Franklin. “When you come out of school like I did and don’t really know what you want to do, you have the view that you want to find something that you’re as passionate about as I’ve been with home mortgage, and you want it to be as successful as it’s been,” Dallas, 53, told HousingWire from his Southern California office. Not so unlike today, the early 1980s were a rough time for the mortgage industry. Dallas says it a lot of ways, it was worse. “If you were alive in 1979-1981, that was a bad market. No loans, 20 percent interest rates, and you had Iran, oil and unemployment,” he said. “You had everything you had today, except there were no loans and 20 percent interest rates.” But the 22-year-old CEO persevered, and his company grew and the market began to improve. By 1994, the San Jose, Calif.-based First Franklin had grown from a small California-based retail brokerage to a regional wholesale lender with a multi-billion-dollar servicing portfolio. In need of capital to keep the business growing, Dallas sold First Franklin in the first of what would be four ownership transactions in the company’s history. The first buyer was DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, a unit of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, or DLJ, the investment bank that has since evolved to Credit Suisse First Boston. The deal, worth $36 million, closed in August 1994, with Dallas retaining leadership of the firm. But as interest rates went up, “the world sort of cratered around them,” Dallas said of the new owners, who wanted out after less than two years. TO READ THE FULL STORY, SUBSCRIBE NOW.
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