First American Title Insurance Co. is establishing direct title operations in Colorado, one month after four title agencies that First American had exclusive underwriting agreements with were bought by rival Fidelity National Financial Inc.

First American’s regional vice president for Nevada, Lynn Donner, will relocate to Colorado and oversee all of the company’s operations in the state, First American said Tuesday. Donner joined First American as a file clerk in 1979, and her past experience includes stints as a commercial escrow officer, escrow branch manager and escrow supervisor.

"We are excited about moving into the Colorado market with our direct operations," said Dennis J. Gilmore, chief operating officer for First American Corp., in a statement. "This move will present tremendous opportunities for First American, and Lynn is the perfect person to lead this effort."

First American suffered a setback in Colorado on Aug. 5 when Fidelity sealed a deal to purchase four title agencies from Mercury Companies Inc. for $5 million. The Mercury-owned title agencies — Security Title, First American Heritage Title, Title America and United Title — had a 30 percent market share in Colorado during 2007, Fidelity said in announcing the deal.

First American, which provided nearly $100 million in financing during the housing boom to bankroll Mercury’s expansion of its title operations, attempted to block the sale in court, saying Mercury needed First American’s consent (see story). A federal district judge declined to block the sale, and Mercury filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 28.

Mercury closed its title and escrow subsidiaries in California, Texas and Arizona — including Financial Title and Lenders Choice Title — on July 29. The closures followed the demise of another California-based Mercury company, Alliance Title, in December.

Another Mercury subsidiary, Guardian Mortgage Documents Inc., was acquired by a former client, LenderLive Network Inc., last month (see story). Mercury has one remaining operating subsidiary, Remington Homes, which owns undeveloped land, the Denver Business Journal reported.


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