Shareholder activist Seymour Holtzman is at it again. His target this time: Ambanc Holding Co. in Amsterdam, N.Y.
On Monday, Mr. Holtzman issued a press release charging that Ambanc's board of directors is "unfit to serve" because of the bank's poor performance over the last three years.
Mr. Holtzman, a vocal bank investor based in Florida with stakes in a number of small banks and thrifts, has a history of taking bank managements to task for what he perceives as lackluster performance. He was particularly outspoken as a shareholder at Onbancorp, Syracuse, which later sold itself to First Empire State Corp., Buffalo.
Mr. Holtzman said the Ambanc board "must answer to investors." He said he is one of the largest shareholders, with a 4.67% stake.
The $500 million-asset bank has lost $200,000 in the last three years, and its efficiency ratio, at 69.81%, is well behind the average bank, said Mr. Holtzman in an interview Monday. The stock price has fallen 2.59% since the beginning of the year, against a 7.29% surge for the Nasdaq bank index.
Mr. Holtzman said he will not vote for the reelection of three Ambanc directors seeking additional terms at the bank's May 22 shareholder meeting.
"None of the board members has had experience with public companies," said Mr. Holtzman. "Some are too old. Two of the board members are 80."
Along with the press release, Mr. Holtzman issued an unflattering cartoon of six board members-two of whom are dozing off, while another appears to be waking up from a long nap. In the cartoon, they are called "the Bored of Directors."
Bank analyst Martin S. Friedman of Friedman, Billings Ramsey & Co. in Arlington, Va., said he is "not sure what Mr. Holtzman is upset about" when it comes to the performance of the bank.
A mutual savings bank that went public three years ago, Ambanc had "some problems with real estate," said Mr. Friedman. Lately, however, "they have been making steady progress."
Mr. Friedman pointed to the company's recent acquisition of Asfala Bancorp, a $100 million savings and loan institution in Amsterdam, N.Y., and Ambanc's buyback program, which has helped bolster the stock.
"They also paid a good price-a 5% premium-for Asfala," said Mr. Friedman. "Most other deals today are going north of 15% to 20%."
Mr. Holtzman said he has held several "unsatisfactory" discussions with the board regarding the bank's performance.
The unhappy shareholder said the board rejected his idea of bringing in a consulting firm that could help slash costs from the acquisition and boost the bank's stock price.
"The board of directors have been responsible to no one," said Mr. Holtzman. "Instead of bringing in new people, it's business as usual."
Ambanc did not return repeated phone calls.
Mr. Holtzman said he plans to hold "his own" shareholder meeting on the day of the bank's annual meeting in hopes of talking to other shareholders about its performance.
Analyst Christopher Parker of Ryan Beck & Co., Livingston, N.J., said, "If it wasn't Mr. Holtzman, somebody else would be speaking out against the bank.
"The company has been underperforming for some time, and while they have been taking some steps, I don't think anything has been solid enough or compelling enough to make me think that they could turn the institution around."