Mortgage veteran sells Ameritrust to Montage Mortgage

John Owens, a Charlotte mortgage industry veteran who weathered the subprime meltdown, has sold his home-loans business but is keeping the Ameritrust name for his wealth management and insurance business.

Owens quietly sold the company at the end of last year to a company called Montage Mortgage, which plans to expand in Charlotte. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Owens said changes in the regulatory environment and a family health scare last year motivated him to sell the mortgage business he began building in 1995.

“It was time for a change for me,” Owens said in an interview this week.

Montage started in Texas in 2010, according to the NMLS mortgage licensing database. Its main office is now in Charlotte, but Montage also has locations in Boulder, Colo., and Alexandria, Va., said president Scott Leslie, who founded Montage and lives in Colorado.

Leslie is best known for co-founding a Texas-based Internet service provider called FlashNet, which was sold to Prodigy Communications in 2000 for $120 million in stock. But he said he also has 25 years of experience in the mortgage business, including buying mortgage loans.

Montage is a niche mortgage company that doesn’t generally market directly to retail customers, Leslie said.

Getting referrals from servicers, Montage helps borrowers struggling to make payments reduce their loan balances. The company also works with homebuilders to make loans to homebuyers who can’t get loans through other lenders, Leslie said. The borrowers may have low credit scores, but Montage requires extensive documentation, he said.

Montage has around 50 employees, with more than 30 in Charlotte. “We intend for that operation to grow,” Leslie said of Charlotte.

Owens, 48, said he continues to expand his wealth management business and Owens Management Group, a consulting firm that helps chief executives hone their corporate cultures and strategies.

The former UNC Charlotte baseball player is also the CEO of Showcase Baseball Academy, which trains aspiring college baseball players at a facility off Independence Boulevard. He’s also writing a book on corporate culture.

Owens launched Ameritrust Mortgage as a subprime lender in 1995, but it stopped making these higher-rate loans in 2007 when the industry imploded. He later rebuilt the company as a prime lender.

Increased regulation is “handcuffing” small mortgage companies, Owens said. “It was time for me to just break away ... because it’s a different regulatory business than it was in the past,” he said.

Owens also began evaluating his priorities after his son, Nick, contracted a mysterious virus last summer that kept him hospitalized for months. He has recovered, resuming his Charlotte Christian baseball career with plans to play for N.C. State next year.

“I keep preaching passion for what you do,” he said, “and I just saw that I found a new passion.”