Former U.S. ambassador, subprime mortgage pioneer dies

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Roland Arnall, founder of subprime pioneer Ameriquest Mortgage Co, died of cancer on Monday morning in Los Angeles, his family said in a statement.

Roland Arnall in an undated photo. Arnall, founder of subprime pioneer Ameriquest, died of cancer on Monday morning in Los Angeles, his family said in a statement. REUTERS/U.S. State Department/Handout

Arnall, 68, left his post as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands 10 days ago to tend to his ailing son, who had been diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. He died at UCLA Medical Center, the statement said.

A major political donor with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.5 billion, Arnall faced opposition from Senate Democrats to his 2005 confirmation as ambassador to the Hague after accusations that his company had preyed on mortgage seekers with subprime credit.

In January 2006, Ameriquest agreed to pay $325 million to settle predatory lending investigations by state attorneys general throughout the United States.

The company admitted no wrongdoing and agreed to several reforms, and Arnall was confirmed later that year.

The allegations against Ameriquest were not the first to surface in connection with an Arnall-owned business.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised Arnall on Monday for his work co-founding the Simon Wiesenthal Center and promoting human rights and tolerance.

“Ambassador Roland Arnall worked each day to bring tolerance and understanding to others, and for that he was a great human being who will be missed,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Born in Paris shortly before World War Two, Arnall’s first business was selling flowers on street corners of Los Angeles, where he had moved with his family in the late 1950s.

He entered real estate in the 1970s, founding privately held financial services company ACC Capital Holdings Corp. in 1979. Arnall retired from the board of the company, which was the parent of Ameriquest, in October 2005.

Ameriquest, once the largest U.S. subprime lender, shut down last August amid the nation’s housing market slump.

Citigroup Inc, the largest U.S. bank, agreed to buy the wholesale mortgage lending and payment collection assets of Ameriquest’s parent, ACC Capital Holdings, for an undisclosed price.

Arnall is survived by his wife Dawn and two adult children, Daniel and Michelle. (Reporting by Gina Keating; editing by Carol Bishopric)