The man credited with overhauling Philadelphia's struggling Regent National Bank left his post on Monday, saying the bank no longer needs him.
John J. Lyons, considered one of the community banking industry's top turnaround artists, stepped down as Regent's president and chief executive officer after six months on the job, saying he had made good on his pledge to set things right within that time.
"My firefighting duties are over," Mr. Lyons said in an interview last week. "The fire is out."
But there is still some cleanup work to be done at the $210 million- asset bank, which lost more than $2 million last year because of a failed venture into automobile insurance premium finance.
Mr. Lyons has turned over the reins to Robert Goldstein, whom he calls a "long-term firefighter." Mr. Goldstein most recently transformed once- ailing Lafayette American Bank and Trust Co. into a lucrative acquisition target. The Bridgeport, Conn., bank was bought by New Jersey's Hubco last year.
But Mr. Goldstein said a sale is not the goal for Regent.
"At this point, what we'd like to do is really build Regent," he said. "Regent has a tremendous opportunity in Philadelphia."
John Carusone, president of the Bank Analysis Center in Hartford, Conn., credited Mr. Goldstein for doing "an outstanding job at Lafayette American. I've confidence in Bob (Goldstein) being a good choice as a replacement."
Mr. Lyons, a former FDIC examiner and bank consultant, was hired six months ago to fix the mess left by Regent's auto premium finance business, which he described as "out-of-control."
The bank financed expensive premiums paid by drivers who are considered high risks by insurance companies. The bank was losing money on many of its 30,000 such contracts.
Mr. Lyons fired the business' servicer, K-C Premium Finance of Philadelphia, and then liquidated the business, which had $27 million in receivables, ridding itself of any exposure to it. The bank is currently in litigation with the servicer.
An agreement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency required Regent to increase its capital-to-asset ratio from 5.75% to at least 7%, so the bank's holding company raised $9.5 million through a private placement of stock that closed Friday. The offering increased the capital ratio to 10%, according to Mr. Goldstein.
Regent also sold off more than $35 million of assets to increase its ratio of capital to assets from 4% in the second quarter of 1996 to 5.65% at yearend.
Mr. Lyons, who will remain on Regent Bankshares' board of directors, has a large personal stake in the bank's future. He bought about $250,000, or 2.6%, worth of the new stock.
He said he is returning to New York to resume his former career as a bank consultant and will await the next bank challenge.
He has also run profitable banks, but prefers troubled ones. "The turnaround is much more exciting," he said.