CVB Financial finds itself in need of a new leader

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Christopher Myers will retire as president and chief executive of CVB Financial next spring, the Ontario, Calif., community bank said.

Myers, 57, who was the $11.3 billion-asset company's CEO since 2006, will step down March 15 and remain as a consultant through Dec. 31, 2020, according to a CVB news release issued after the markets closed Thursday. Though analysts expressed surprise at the timing of his departure, Myers said in the release that he has been in the job a long time and that he has accomplished his major goals.

“I believe it is the right time for me to step aside and help the bank transition to new leadership,” Myers said in the release. He said he was especially proud of the bank's merger with Community Bank in Pasadena, which was completed in August. "We have truly taken our combined company to a new financial level." CVB bought the $3.7 billion-asset Community for $900 million. The deal followed CVB's acquisition of the $412 million-asset Valley Commerce Bancorp for $60 million in 2017.

CVB said it has begun the process to find its next leader. The board has formed a committee to oversee the transition process and will engage an outside executive search firm to evaluate internal and external candidates.

During Myers' tenure as president and CEO, the company's quarterly earnings per share have grown from 21 cents to 37 cents per quarter and return on average assets has increased from 1.22% to 1.84%, the press release said.

Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Timothy Coffey lowered his rating on the company to neutral following the announcement. In a note to investors, Coffey called the move a "surprise" and said it ends a "highly successful" partnership for Myers and CVB Financial.

"In our opinion, investors could take a more cautious approach to the stock until more information is known," Coffey wrote. "Further, we believe it is unlikely in the near-term the stock trades at a valuation in-line with our prior fair value target."

Analyst Aaron James Deer, who covers CVB for Sandler O'Neill, said in a note to clients Friday that Myers has put the company in position for continued strong performance as the benefits of Community Bank deal are realized. "That said, our conversation with Myers last night suggested that he accomplished what he sought to achieve and now wishes to prioritize other areas of his life. There was no indication of any disagreement with the company or other issues that might have prompted the decision," Deer wrote.

Raymond V. O’Brien III, the company’s chairman, said Myers brought "tremendous" growth and strengthened the franchise while overseeing 168 consecutive quarters of profitability and 118 consecutive quarters of paying a dividend to shareholders.

"The board is pleased with the company’s existing strategy and performance, and we do not anticipate any strategic changes to the company’s business or financial model at this time," he said.

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