Three Norwest Mortgage subsidiaries, First American Financial to form joint venture


Three subsidiaries of Norwest Mortgage, Inc., which provide services to the real estate industry, will form a joint venture with The First American Financial Corporation, announced leadership of the two companies today. The joint venture will result in two new holding companies, called RELStar LLC and RELStar Title Services LLC. The new companies will offer traditional products and services and are expected to benefit from increased capacity, improved technology and enhanced services.

Norwest Mortgage subsidiaries included in the joint venture are ATI Title Company, which offers title insurance products and escrow closings; Value IT, which provides nationwide appraisal services; and VIE, which provides income and employment verification reports to lenders. ATI, Value IT and VIE will continue to conduct operations under their existing names.

While Norwest will retain 50 percent interest, First American will acquire a 50 percent interest in the subsidiaries and manage the joint venture. A six-member operating committee – including three executives from First American and three from Norwest Mortgage – will oversee the joint venture’s operation.

The joint venture is expected to be operational in August, pending approval by Federal and state regulatory agencies. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"Under the joint venture structure, ATI Title, Value IT and VIE will be better positioned to compete on a nationwide level, and better serve our growing customer base," said Richard Malloy, president of Norwest Mortgage’s Real Estate Lending Services group, which currently oversees management of the subsidiaries.

"The ATI, Value IT and VIE operations are significant, high-quality providers of title, appraisal and employment verification services," said Parker S. Kennedy, president of First American Financial. "We are delighted with the opportunities presented by this combination of Norwest and First American resources and we look forward to our role as manager in enhancing the services and products available to the current and future customers of RELStar."

Combined, ATI, Value IT and VIE employ more than 1,000 team members, through more than 100 offices nationwide.

"Working together as RELStar, each of the joint venture partners will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by serving customers with a complete spectrum of products and services," said Mark Oman, chairman and CEO of Norwest Mortgage. "This relationship is a natural extension of our existing business relationship with First American."

ATI Title Company is the nation’s largest title insurance company owned by a bank holding company. Spring Mountain Escrow Services Corp., included in Norwest Mortgage’s recent acquisition of WMC Mortgage Corp.’s prime lending operations, will join the joint venture as a unit of ATI. Spring Mountain is California’s largest independent closing services company.

Value IT markets appraisal services and national appraisal review services to lending institutions, and manages an appraisal fee panel of 6,500 independent appraisers nationwide.

VIE services are currently available in Iowa, Minnesota and Texas and will soon be available in North Carolina.

Substantially all current employees of the three subsidiaries will remain at their current location.

The First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), based in Santa Ana, California, is the nation’s leading provider of real estate-related financial and information services. The corporation’s subsidiaries include First American Title Insurance Company, a national and international title insurer; First American Real Estate Information Services, Inc., which offers tax monitoring, credit reporting, property data services, flood certification, field inspection services, appraisal services, mortgage loan origination and servicing systems, and mortgage document preparation nationally, First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation, a home warranty company; and First American Capital Management, an investment advisory firm. First American Financial has 15,000 employees in over 400 branch offices in the Unites States and abroad.

Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Norwest Mortgage, Inc., is a subsidiary of Norwest Corporation (NYSE: NOB). It is the nation’s leading originator and servicer of residential mortgages. With nearly 750 stores nationwide, Norwest Mortgage operates the largest mortgage lending network in the country and provides funding for approximately one of every 15 homes financed in the United States.


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