The death of Success Bancshares' flamboyant chief executive last week has cast doubt on the future of the Lincolnshire, Ill., company.

Observers said Saul D. Binder, who died of a heart attack July 12 at age 58, had supplied the personality and leadership behind $400 million-asset Success. And though few doubt the talent of his interim replacement- longtime colleague Christa N. Calabrese-the lack of a permanent successor has fueled speculation that the company may become a takeover target.

"People see the management succession as an issue," said Bradley S. Vander Ploeg, a bank analyst at Everen Securities in Chicago. "Even if they don't want to sell, they're still going to have to entertain these offers."

"Saul was the driving force behind that organization," said Richard Soukup, a partner at Grant Thornton LLP in Chicago. "It's going to be very difficult to replace that."

Takeout speculation sent Success' stock price soaring 18% in the week after Mr. Binder's death. The stock closed at $16.625 per share in heavy trading Friday and was trading midday Tuesday at the same price.

Likely bidders for Success include three Chicago players-ABN Amro North America, which owns LaSalle National Bank; St. Paul Bancorp; and First Chicago NBD Corp.-Mr. Vander Ploeg said. Bids could be 22 times Success' estimated 1999 earnings per share of $1.15, or 2.3 times book value, he said.

Ms. Calabrese, chief loan officer and an executive vice president, was made interim chief operating officer pending the naming of a successor to Mr. Binder. Ms. Calabrese, who had worked with him for more than 25 years, has promised to maintain Mr. Binder's expansion strategy, which includes opening five suburban Chicago branches this year.

"We're moving forward in the same footprints he laid out," she said. Success' board is not seeking to sell the company, she said, adding: "Everything's for sale at the right price."

Though Ms. Calabrese said she has not decide whether to seek Mr. Binder's post, Mr. Vander Ploeg said she would be a logical choice. "She doesn't have Saul's personality," he said, "but she is very capable of steering the ship."

He added that Ms. Calabrese would be likely to avoid some of Mr. Binder's more extreme moves, such as last year's hostile takeover attempt at Chicago's North Bancshares.

In an unusual maneuver, Mr. Binder attacked North in the press as he made an offer to swap Success stock for stock of the struggling thrift. Mr. Vander Ploeg estimated that the deal, which North's board rejected, would have been 10% to 18% dilutive of Success' 1998 earnings.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.