The Miami Herald reported Saturday that Abess passed out the $60 million to 399 current staff members and 72 former employees after selling his majority stake in National Bancshares.
The impromptu bonuses exceeded more than $100,000 in certain cases.
''I retired seven years ago, and all of a sudden I get this wonderful letter and phone call,'' Evelyn J. Budde, a former City National Bank of Florida vice president, said of the gift.
''I was shocked,'' said William Perry, another former vice president who spent more than 43 years working his way up the executive ladder after being hired as a janitor.
For Abess, who sold his 83 percent stake to the Caja Madrid banking group for $927 million last November, it was a way of giving back to his loyal workers.
''Those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity -- I always thought some day I'm going to surprise them,'' he told the Herald.