John J. Lyons has been named president of Keefe Managers Inc., the New York money management firm founded by Harry V. Keefe Jr. that specializes in bank stock investments.
The appointment came two months after the firm lost its longtime president, Matthew F. Byrnes, and senior analysts Felice Gelman and Marge Demarrais.
Mr. Lyons, a banking expert and turnaround specialist, joined Keefe Managers' advisory board in February. He has 30 years of experience in the banking industry. From 1974 to 1976 he was corporate finance director at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., the boutique investment firm that Mr. Keefe co-founded in 1962.
As president, Mr. Lyons is to oversee Keefe Managers' new senior investment team.
Veteran analysts Frank J. Barkocy and Charles Cranmer, portfolio manager Bill Rubin, and senior trader Raymond Judge joined Keefe two weeks ago.
Departures from the company have continued. Jennifer Weiss, Keefe Managers' accountant, and Ric Weisberger, a trader, left the first week in April.
People have been hired to succeed Ms. Weiss and Mr. Weisberger, Mr. Lyons said, but he declined to give their names. The two additions to the staff will begin work next week.
Mr. Lyons is to oversee the Rainbow Fund, Keefe Managers' four-year-old unhedged fund. It invests in potential bank takeover targets and troubled banks that Mr. Lyons plans to help turn around.
Keefe Managers also operates two hedge funds that invest in bank stocks.
In the last seven years Mr. Lyons has helped turn around four banks. In 1997 he helped turn around Regent National Bank, which was recapitalized and later sold to JeffBanks in Philadelphia.
Mr. Lyons has also helped turn around Gateway American Bank in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Monarch Savings Bank in Clark, N.J.; and Jupiter Tequesta National Bank in Tequesta, Fla.
The Rainbow Fund has investments in 30 small banks and 15 large- capitalization banks, including Fifth Third Corp. and Chase Manhattan Corp.
Mr. Lyons said that the small banks in the fund are good merger targets because of their strong business operations, good location, or troubled credit lines. The large-cap stocks help give the fund liquidity, he said.
Merger activity is sluggish but certainly not dead, Mr. Lyons said; the slowdown in activity is a result of market conditions and year-2000 concerns.
And there is always a lull in activity between the end of the year and the time of shareholder meetings. "It is a desert period for bank merger announcements from December to April," said Mr. Lyons, predicting that deal activity will soon pick up.