No one would blame activist investor Richard Lashley if he's muttering, "I told you so."
Lashley's firm, PL Capital, spent two years before the financial crisis fighting to get on the board at Bancorp Rhode Island Inc. and force a sale, to no avail. Now the company is working to complete its sale to Brookline Bancorp Inc. of Massachusetts, though a shareholder election has been delayed four times until regulators approve the deal.
Lashley applauds the deal, especially the premium of 1.9 times tangible book value. But he has not forgotten the board's stubborn campaign to remain independent five years ago.
"The ironic part about the whole thing was that they threw their hometown flag in front of all the shareholders," claiming "how horrible it would be if they left," Lashley says. He recalls how the board invited the local chamber and business owners to stand up for Bancorp Rhode Island's independence at an annual shareholders meeting.
A local resident screamed at him in a confrontation after the meeting, he says. "I told her 'I can assure you that they are not going to earn what they need'," he says.
Lashley's arguments proved prescient. In April, Bancorp Rhode Island agreed to sell to an out-of-state bank, Brookline, for $234 million of cash and stock. The deal is scheduled to close by yearend.
Still, Lashley has no hard feelings. "In hindsight, it's hard to complain," he says. "They were always looking to maximize value and we were just disagreeing on timing."