An activist shareholder that wanted an Indiana thrift to convert into a national bank is pulling up its stake.
In a Jan. 29 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Chiplease Inc. reported it sold 61,906 shares of Sobieski Bancorp. back to the company, and agreed to resell its remaining 34,694 shares.
Leon Greenblatt, president of the industrial equipment leasing firm, said he has been stymied trying to persuade the $77.3 million-asset thrift to change its strategic direction.
"I'd rather get my money out," said Mr. Greenblatt, who had tried and failed to get a list of Sobieski shareholders during the course of his conflict with the thrift. "They don't know what they're doing, and they're going to get into trouble."
Thomas F. Gruber, chief executive officer of the thrift, was not available for comment. In past interviews, he defended the company's diversification strategy as a means of increasing revenues.
Back in December, Chiplease owned a 10.99% stake in the company and wanted to buy at least 50% of the thrift's outstanding stock.
Chiplease, which has ownership stakes in about 100 Midwestern financial institutions, pushed for change at the thrift out of dissatisfaction with its performance and alarm over its decision to move into commercial real estate lending.
"They are going into commercial lending and real estate lending, and they have zero experience in those areas," Mr. Greenblatt said.
Sobieski would be better off switching charters and specializ as a niche lender, Mr. Greenblatt said. But management was not receptive to his proposals, and the two parties never met face-to-face.
"We got off to a bad start," he said.
Mr. Greenblatt also knocked Sobieski for having a low return on assets ratio and a high expense ratio.
In past interviews, Mr. Gruber criticized Chiplease's bid for bigger ownership. Sobieski's certificate of incorporation prohibits the acquisition of more than 10% of the company's stock by an individual shareholder or group working in concert.
Chiplease's proposed purchase of a majority of the stock "involves serious corporate, regulatory, and securities issues that will be difficult to resolve," Mr. Gruber said in a December release.