Thomas A. Cooper, the former BankAmerica Corp. president known for aggressive cost-cutting, is plotting his return to the banking industry by engineering a $65 million takeover of Chase Federal Savings Bank of Miami.

Likely to lose his job in the deal is Edwin J. Gray, the former Federal Home Loan Bank Board chairman, who has been Chase Federal's president and chief operating officer since 1987.

Blue-Collar Aspirations

Leading a group of a dozen investors, Mr. Cooper plans to convert the mutual thrift into a publicly held company and install himself as president and chief executive officer. Among those leaving along with Mr. Gray would be the current CEO, Charles L. Clements Jr., whose father founded the $1.1 billion-asset thrift in 1934.

Mr. Cooper said he wants Chase Federal to be a "blue-collar" bank, concentrating on basic deposit and loan products for people who earn less than $50,000 a year.

He hopes to complete the transaction in August, pending approval from the Office of Thrift Supervision and settlement of a lawsuit stemming from Chase Federal's purchase of $40 million of mortgages from General Development Corp., whose managers were convicted of fraud.

"There will be no recapitalization from TAC Bancshares if there is not a resolution of that class-action suit," said Mr. Cooper, referring to the holding company that would make the deal.

Supervisory Conversion

Chase Federal agreed to the buyout as a solution for its capital deficiency. In what is known as a supervisory conversion, TAC Bancshares will recapitalize the thrift in exchange for Office of Thrift Supervision permission to take it public without the customary participation of its depositors.

A supervisory conversion, which can involve dismissal of current management, is usually allowed when a thrift's core capital is less than 4% of assets, risk-based capital is less than 8%, and when it might otherwise face seizure. Chase's capital levels are currently 2.67% and 7.6% and it lost $877,000 in the quarter ended June 30.

Mr. Cooper's group has agreed to raise core capital to 4% and risk-based capital to 8% -- the estimated $65 million infusion.

Mr. Clements, 64, said he is pleased to have found new capital but has "sweet and sour" feelings about retiring after 40 years.

Mr. Gray declined to comment. As the nation's top thrift regulator from 1983 to 1987, he became embroiled in controversy over the industry's burgeoning crisis.

Mr. Cooper called the 17-branch Chase Federal "a bread-and-butter, straightforward, blue-collar banking institution. That's exactly the type of business we like to focus on." It will eschew investment management, commercial lending, and other services that will tend to raise operating costs, Mr. Cooper said.

Former Minister

Mr. Cooper, 56, a former Methodist minister, will be adding to a resume that includes the presidencies of BankAmerica (1986-87), Invest Financial Corp. (1987-89), and Goldome Federal Savings Bank from 1989 until its seizure in 1991.

He has since been involved in consulting and investment management.

He plans to bring to Chase Federal Richard Hessinger, former Goldome treasurer, Lawrence Trapp, who ran Goldome's investment portfolio, and Donald

Baker, formerly of Bank of New England Corp.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.