John Kanas, who built North Fork Bank into a regional giant before selling it to Capital One for $14.6 billion in cash and stock in 2006, is retiring as the president and CEO of Miami Lakes, Florida-based BankUnited on Jan. 1.

Kanas will be replaced by Rajinder P. Singh, who is currently BankUnited’s chief operating officer.

Kanas will stay on as chairman. The East Moriches resident turned 70 in November.

“I’ll spend much of my time staying in close touch with our largest customers, many of whom migrated over from the North Fork days, as well as with some of our biggest investors,” Kanas said.

Kanas said he was weighing proposals for one final act in finance.

“But I’m not sure what that will be,” Kanas said, adding that he is looking forward to a lighter travel schedule.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

“I’ve spent Mondays here, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Florida, Thursdays in New York City and Fridays, well, who knows,” Kanas said from his Melville office. “I won’t be in Florida every week.”

BankUnited was established in 2009 when a group of investors led by Kanas acquired it from federal banking regulators after it failed during the financial crisis. BankUnited has one branch on Long Island, at 445 Broadhollow Rd. in Melville.

Kanas is best known on Long Island for his decadeslong run at North Fork Bank, which grew throughout the New York region through acquisitions. He joined the bank as a branch manager in East Moriches in 1971 and became the bank’s chief executive in 1977.

Kanas took North Fork public in 1982.

Its first acquisition came in 1988, when North Fork bought out Southold Savings Bank. The Melville-based bank went on to buy 17 more banks, the last of which was GreenPoint Financial Corp. in 2004.

Two years later, North Fork agreed to sell itself to Capital One.