An activist shareholder has widened his target range to include thrifts in Midwestern states other than Michigan.
Peter T. Kross, a Detroit stockbroker who has pressured three Michigan thrifts to sell out in the past four years, is leading a limited partnership that recently disclosed it has taken significant stakes in Indiana and Illinois thrifts.
MFB Corp., Mishawaka, Ind., and Standard Financial Inc., Chicago, are the first institutions outside Michigan in which Mr. Kross has announced interests.
Because the limited partnership, LaSalle/Kross Partners, gives Mr. Kross greater funding resources than in the past, more Midwestern thrifts are likely to receive his call, observers said.
One Midwestern bank analyst described Mr. Kross "as a guy who makes things happen."
"Michigan doesn't have all the opportunities," Mr. Kross said, adding that he helped organize the partnership because "I have limited money to invest."
Richard L. Nelson, Mr. Kross' partner, said LaSalle/Kross has smaller stakes in other financial institutions, but he declined to identify any. LaSalle/Kross homes in on thrifts with undervalued stocks and strong franchises, he said.
The partnership still is in the early stages of introducing plans to the two institutions on how to maximize shareholder returns; its position in Standard Financial was only announced Tuesday. But both thrifts are likely to hear that they should seek merger partners.
That would be in keeping with Mr. Kross' track record. Michigan thrifts that Mr. Kross invested in, and then pressured, to sell include Great Lakes Bancorp, Ann Arbor; FSB Financial Corp., Kalamazoo; and SJS Bancorp, St. Joseph.
LaSalle/Kross announced Tuesday that it had purchased 5.2% of the outstanding common stock of $2.2 billion-asset Standard Financial, which converted from a mutual charter in 1994. Chief financial officer Thomas Ryan said the thrift is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the partnership's activity.
"All we've seen is that they've filed," he said. "Our goal is to maximize shareholder value for the long run."
Charles W. Viater, chief executive of $225 million-asset MFB Corp., was similarly reluctant to discuss the activist shareholder. LaSalle/Kross has purchased 6.8% of the thrift's outstanding stock.
"We're treading on an area that's difficult to talk about," he said.
Mr. Viater, who has been CEO for a year, said the thrift would be able to maximize shareholder value by sticking to its current strategic plan.