Mutual holding company pioneer dies after long battle with cancer

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Eric Luse, a prominent community banking lawyer who helped pioneer the mutual holding company structure, died Friday after a decadelong battle with cancer.

Luse, who was 68, began his career on Wall Street as a corporate lawyer at Shearman & Sterling. He later moved to Washington, where he co-founded Luse Gorman in 1993.

Luse Gorman has grown into a prominent community banking law firm that works with more than 350 institutions.

Luse was “a tireless advocate for the community banking industry and a trusted adviser to management teams and boards of directors of community banks across the country," the firm said in a statement Monday. "His dedication to the firm and the practice of law was second only to his dedication to his family.”

Eric Luse, who died on Friday, was an early champion of the mutual holding company structure.
Eric Luse, who died on Friday, was an early champion of the mutual holding company structure.

Luse is survived by Susan, his wife of 43 years, three children and three grandchildren.

Bill Pommerening, the chief executive of RP Financial, which specializes in valuing mutual institutions, said Luse “never slowed down” despite his fight with cancer.

“He always took a very optimistic view of things," added Pommerening, who collaborated with Luse to design the mutual holding company structure in the early 1990s. “He was one of my oldest friends in the business. We all have a heavy heart with his passing.”

Luse was a valuable sounding board at the law firm, offering advice and counsel to the other lawyers.

“If there were difficult issues in the office, he was the sage people would turn to,” said John Gorman, Luse’s partner.

Luse remained a “very hands-on” lawyer and administrator, said Kip Weissman, another Luse Gorman partner. “He was traveling on business throughout this year.”

As recently as March, Luse led the Luse Gorman team that advised the $460 million-asset Farmers & Merchants Bancshares in Upperco, Md., in its $25 million deal to acquire Carroll Bancorp in Sykesville, Md. That deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.

Luse “was on a merger call three days before he died,” Gorman said. “It was an issue he’d worked on and he wanted to listen in.”

Pommerening said Luse was instrumental getting regulators to draw up the rules allowing deposit-owned thrifts to form mutual holding companies and raise capital.

Luse Gorman and RP Financial helped Community Bank Shares of Indiana in New Harmony create the first mutual holding company, in 1991. The mutual sold a minority ownership stake in a first-step conversion four years later in “a model transaction” that spawned hundreds of similar deals in subsequent years, Pommerening said.

“It was slow going at first, but we gained market acceptance and the rest is history,” he said.

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