A central Massachusetts community bank chairman is throwing his money- and his position - behind an unusual effort to push through a merger.

In a bid to push a merger with a rival bank, David G. Massad, chairman of Commerce Bank and Trust Co. in Worcester, has acquired a 9.9% personal stake in competitor Safety Fund National Bank, Fitchburg. The acquisition makes him the $283 million-asset bank's largest shareholder, as well as the controlling shareholder of Commerce.

Mr. Massad revealed his ownership in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also announced that he has proposed a merger between the 12-branch Safety Fund and Commerce, but Safety Fund officials have "not been receptive to such proposals."

The Commerce chairman stated in the filing that he "intends to closely monitor his investment" and might make additional stock purchases. He said he has no specific plan or merger proposal and has "no present intention to take any such action that is not recommended by the board of directors" of Safety Fund.

Mr. Massad could not be reached for comment.

Safety Fund president and chief executive Christopher W. Bramley declined to discuss Mr. Massad's overtures. He said the bank is not concerned about Mr. Massad's becoming the largest shareholder.

"The management and the board are focused on improving the performance of this company," Mr. Bramley said. "We think that's the best thing we can do to show our shareholders good value."

Safety Fund was late, compared with other Northeast banks, in acknowledging asset quality problems.

The bank reported a $3.1 million loss for 1993 and a $316,000 loss for the first half of 1994, as nonperforming assets rose to about 10% of total assets.

Nonperforming assets are now down to $4.1 million, or 2.7% of assets, and the bank reported net income for the first half of $590,000.

Mr. Massad, who owns two automobile dealerships in addition to his ownership of Commerce, bought 23,500 shares at $20.625 each on Aug. 7 to bring his total ownership to 110,469 shares.

In the filing, he claims to have paid a total of $4.9 million for his shares.

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