Genesis Financial Partners is claiming victory in its battle to force the sale of a Massachusetts thrift.
Shareholders of Central Co-operative Bank have voted, in nonbinding resolutions, to drop the thrift's anti-takeover provisions and sell the institution, the California hedge fund said Wednesday.
The Somerville thrift's management, however, continued to insist that it wouldn't change its strategy to keep the thrift independent.
A final tally of votes at the Dec. 2 annual meeting found about 68% of the shares voted (52% of those outstanding) had backed Genesis' proposal to dismantle clauses in the thrift's charter and bylaws designed to block a hostile takeover.
The second proposal, calling for the thrift's sale, got 59% of the shares voted (or 45% of those outstanding). About 76% of the 1.96 million shares outstanding were voted.
Genesis has pressed management during the past year to beef up performance or sell out, and it has fought a bitter battle with Central both in court and in the press.
"The results are very clear and extremely powerful," said Stephen H. Gordon, president of Genesis general partner Gen Fin Inc. "I am confident that each and every individual member of the board understands his fiduciary duty."
Senior vice president William P. Morrissey played down the vote. "Our positions are very clear," he said. "The board of directors have stated unequivocally and categorically that the bank is not for sale at this time."
In separate votes, two directors and the corporate secretary were overwhelmingly reelected; all ran unopposed.
"Clearly the shareholders want to see the company sold," said James Moynihan, senior vice president at Advest Group in Boston. "I think management should listen."
The thrift's stock price was unchanged at $18 a share in early trading Thursday.