Suitor Sues N.Y. Thrift Over Sales of Stakes

NEW YORK - A hostile suitor is claiming that Carver Bancorp Inc. schemed to ensure the reelection of some of its board members by selling an 8.25% stake to sympathetic investment firms.The plaintiff is Boston Bank of Commerce, which has been attempting to buy Carver and which has put two candidates up for election to the $421 million minority-owned thrift's board. Bank of Commerce is seeking to "sterilize" or nullify the preferred shares Carver recently sold to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co and Provender Capital Group, both of New York.

Bank of Commerce, a $103 million-asset, minority-owned company with a 7% stake in Carver, said in the complaint filed Wednesday in Delaware Chancery Court that the stock was placed in the investment houses' hands because Deborah Wright, Carver's chief executive officer, has close ties to executives at Morgan Stanley and Provender.

Carver, the parent company of Carver Federal Savings Bank and the nation's largest minority-owned thrift, has rejected three unsolicited takeover bids from Boston Bank of Commerce.

- Taran Provost


Compass to Put Its Name on Ariz. Branches

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Compass Bancshares on Wednesday announced plans to rename its 48-branch Arizona Bank unit after the parent company.The $18.2 billion-asset company entered Arizona with its 1998 purchase of Arizona Bank in Tucson. In April 1999 it bought 15 branches in the state from Wells Fargo & Co. Inc. and gave them the Arizona Bank name. On Feb. 1 those offices will all take the name Compass Bank.

D. Paul Jones Jr., Compass' chairman and chief executive officer, said the company's expansion elsewhere in the West made the name change "a logical step in building our strengths in the region."

The Compass brand could soon be unveiled in New Mexico and Colorado. Last year Compass bought Western Bancshares in Albuquerque, N.M. It also has a deal pending to buy Megabank Financial Corp. in Denver.

- Louis Whiteman


Chase, U.K. Partner to Run $100M Web Fund

LONDON - Taking its success in investing in Internet companies to another overseas market, Chase Manhattan Corp. on Wednesday announced the formation of a $100 million European private equity fund.Through its subsidiary Chase Capital Partners, Chase will partner with U.K. venture capital firm Episode-1 to take stakes in young U.K. Internet companies with "European or global aspirations," particularly in business-to-business electronic commerce, Chase said in a release.

The joint venture will be called Chase Episode-1 and will be managed by Episode-1 founders and co-heads Simon Murdoch and Richard Tahta. In an arrangement similar to the one Chase has with industry-focused venture capital firms in the United States, like New York Internet specialist Flatiron Partners, Chase has provided the bulk of the money for the fund and will continue to provide expertise through Chase Capital Partners Europe.

Last year Chase made several lucrative Internet investments including a $29.5 million stake in Latin American Web site StarMedia Network Inc., which resulted in a $240 million gain.

Episode-1 was started last year by Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Tahta, formerly senior executives for Amazon.com's European operations. Both have also made personal investments in the fund.

- Laura Mandaro


Dallas Brokerage Approved to Buy Tex. Thrift

WASHINGTON - Southwest Securities Group of Dallas received approval from the Office of Thrift Supervision to acquire First Savings Bank, a $264 million-asset Arlington, Tex., thrift and its holding company, ASBI Holdings Inc.Southwest, a brokerage and financial services firm, expects to do "limited" cross-marketing of its products, and any expansion of this activity would require advance approval by OTS, the regulatory agency said.

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