recovery, raising almost $4.8 million in a public offering hours before a regulatory deadline. Without the new capital, Fairfield First Bank and Trust Co. might have become the third FDIC-insured bank to fail this year - and the first outside California. "It was life-saving," said Fairfield First chief financial officer John J. Troy. "We were going down. There was no question about it." This month's successful offering by Fairfield First included about $1 million invested by three former Citicorp executives. One of the investors, Trevor I. Bell, will become the new president and chief executive, replacing Thomas F. Gill. The other two ex-Citicorp investors, B. Ahmed Jelani and Leonard P. Hubbard, will become executive vice president and chief operating officer, and chief technology and credit officer, respectively. Mr. Gill, who had been president of the troubled institution since 1990, will assist the three investors during the transition. The infusion of capital staved off almost certain failure for the 10- year-old bank. At March 31, the $64 million-asset company had reported a capital ratio of 0.79%. The offering of 600,000 shares of participating preferred stock brought Fairfield First's capital ratio up to 8%, well above the 5% required in a cease-and-desist order by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. FDIC examiners had been present at the bank for several months to monitor its financial status and had already awarded a bid for another institution to take over, Mr. Troy said. Bank officials were not told who the buyer would have been. According to a source familiar with the situation, the bank came within hours of a May 4 FDIC deadline for raising capital. The source wasn't sure what would have happened after the deadline but suspected that the acquisition bid would have been honored. "Most people had given the bank up for dead," said First Albany Corp. bank analyst Tracey Stangle. "It was speculated for quite some time that they were going to be taken over by the FDIC, (but) it looks like they're now going to be able to go forward." Besides cutting nonperforming assets, the bank's new management plans to focus on business development in the bank's current market area, as well as in the cities of Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford, Conn., Mr. Gill said in a press release. John Carusone, president of the Bank Analysis Center in Hartford, Conn., said the former Citicorp executives' investment showed their confidence in the ability of the Connecticut economy to pull out of its current doldrums. But he speculated that the investors are also planning to use the two- branch Fairfield First as a jumping off point for further growth. Among the possibilities, he said, would be for the investors to buy branches divested by Fleet Financial Group in its merger with Shawmut National Corp. "By itself, Fairfield is an attractive town, but the franchise of this little bank isn't the garden spot of Connecticut," Mr. Carusone said. "My guess is that this is a means to a different end of a long-term nature." Fairfield's performance has been hampered by nonperforming assets, which total $9 million, or 14% of the bank's total. Since 1990, Fairfield has reported annual losses totaling $9 million. The bank lost another $75,000 in the first quarter of 1995. Desperate for capital, Fairfield had even held exploratory merger talks with several local institutions during the second half of last year and first quarter of 1995, but the discussions never led anywhere, Mr. Troy said.
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