Craig's Group Called Victor In N.H. Contest

An investor group led by former Shawmut National Corp. vice chairman William Craig has won the bidding for three insolvent New Hampshire thrifts, according to a source at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The thrifts - Dartmouth Bank, Numerica Savings, and New Hampshire Savings expected to be seized by regulators this weekend. They have about $2.7 billion in assets, $600 million of which may be kept by the government, analysts estimated.

A victory by Mr. Craig and his group would be the first time that the FDIC has picked a private investor group over a bank in a federally assisted deal.

Sources in New England and Washington last week were forecasting that the three thrifts would go to Fleet/Norstar Financial Group Inc. or KeyCorp.

First New Hampshire Banks, a unit of the Bank of Ireland, also vied for the three thrifts.

"We're not optimistic that they've chosen KeyCorp," said Lee Irving, treasurer of the Albany, N.Y.-based company.

Officials of Rhode Island-based Fleet would not comment.

Shared Equity Arrangement

The Craig group includes 35 institutional and individual investors who have committed $54 million to the effort. Marshall Davidson, an investment banker at Kidder, Peabody & Co. who served as its adviser, said the group has a shared equity arrangement with the FDIC.

Sources said Fleet and KeyCorp are still in the running for Amoskeag Bank and Bank East, two New Hampshire banks being auctioned by the government. Both banks also bid to manage the problem assets of all the institutions.

The Craig bid's apparent success was first reported in the Boston Globe on Tuesday.

Mr. Craig will be chairman and CEO. Robert Keller, Dartmouth's chief executive, will be president and chief operating officer. Dennis Beaulieu, a New Hampshire banker, will be chief financial officer.

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