Investors pushing for changes at a Michigan thrift say they don't want to be on the board anymore. Instead, the shareholders in Bank West Financial Corp. said they've found an ally in a new board candidate.
Richard J. Nelson and Peter T. Kross, who together own a 6.7% stake in $159 million-asset Bank West, had sought a seat on the board so they could demand that the company look for a buyer.
Now the pair say they support Harry E. Mika's candidacy because they believe he shares their investment philosophy, according to Mr. Nelson.
Mr. Mika, a 77-year-old Grand Rapids, Mich., resident with more than 25 years experience on Michigan bank boards, holds 7.2% of Bank West's stock and is its largest independent shareholder. Mr. Mika is expected to win a seat at the annual meeting next month.
Mr. Nelson said he and Mr. Kross, who make up LaSalle Financial Partners LP, endorsed Mr. Mika's candidacy after speaking with him a few times.
"This gets us basically what we wanted to accomplish, which was to get a new independent shareholder on the board," said Mr. Nelson.
Mr. Mika has a history of capitalizing on bank buyouts. He held stock in $1 billion-asset Metrobank and served on its board when it was sold to $34 billion-asset Comerica Inc. in 1995. He also owned stock in AmeriBank, a $328 million-asset thrift, when it was sold in 1995 to Ottawa Financial Corp., an $859 million-asset thrift company.
Paul W. Sydloski, president and chief executive of Bank West, said he is looking forward to working with Mr. Mika. Mr. Sydloski said Bank West's strategic plan does not include being acquired at this time.
Nevertheless, Grand Rapids-based Bank West, the seventh-largest thrift in the state, is often named as an acquisition target.
While Mr. Mika would not say whether he believed Bank West should sell itself to a larger institution, he said he would use a position on the board to maximize shareholder return.
Mr. Nelson, who has similarly benefited from bank acquisitions, was straightforward in his outlook for Bank West. "There is nothing to indicate in the past two and a half years that an investor would be happy with their returns," he said. "We still feel that the bank has to look at alternatives, which is to merge with a larger institution."
Mr. Nelson was especially critical of Bank West's return on equity, which was 5.99% for the quarter ended June 30. He also discouraged Bank West from considering any expansion, saying there are few opportunities in the company's market.