Merrill in frame to back Prust’s new lender

Rumours are rife that Merrill Lynch will back the new lender headed by the ex-Southern Pacific Mortgage Limited dream team of John Prust, Bill Cherry and Stuart Aitken.

Prust left SPML in February and the rumour at the time was that he would join Cherry, former managing director of SPML and Aitken, former director of credit at the len-der, in a new venture.

Mortgage Strategy understands that the lender’s name will be an-nounced over the next two weeks.

SPML was bought by US investment giant Lehman Brothers in 2002. In 2005, Cherry left the company to return to his native US.

Aitken left SPML in March 2006 to work as a consultant for Kensington Mortgages. However, in January 2007 he left this role with no job to go to.

Now the SPML trio will combine forces once more to offer first and second charge loans.

Both Merrill and Prust refused to comment. But industry pundits say the combination of the SPML luminaries and Merrill would make a good fit.

Roger Morris, managing director of em-financial, says: “Prust has one of the longest pedigrees in sub-prime. If he’s ticked Merrill’s boxes I believe he’s got the right partner.”

Merrill owns Mortgages PLC, Freedom Lending and a 45% stake in Oakwood Financial, which funds edeus.

But Martin Reynolds, director of corporate accounts at edeus, says: “Investment companies seem to be collecting mortgage firms like Pa-nini stickers.”