Pass the Berets

BNP Paribas' pending deal to buy out the remaining 45% of BancWest Corp. of Honolulu has given employees ample opportunity to joke about the need to brush up on their high school French.

And the company's management has joined in the jesting.

At an all-employee meeting to discuss the French company's offer, Walter Dods, BancWest's chairman and chief executive, and several other senior managers walked onto the stage wearing attire that could only be described as fusion: black berets and Aloha shirts.

Meanwhile in California, BancWest's Bank of the West is much more familiar with the company's future parent - for 18 years it was a wholly owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas' predecessor Banque Nationale de Paris.

At BancWest's administrative headquarters in the San Francisco suburb of Walnut Creek, Calif., it's apparent that the French influence has already crept into company speak.

"It's pretty much a fait accompli, as the French would say," said Don J. McGrath, president and chief operating officer of BancWest, in an interview last week about a purely domestic matter - the company's branch conversions in the Southwest.

Though he has worked with the French for more than 20 years, Mr. McGrath still claims just a "reading knowledge" of the language and adds that his daughter says his spoken French bears little resemblance to any language.

That's not necessarily a barrier to doing business at the head office, Mr. McGrath has discovered. In Paris for BNP Paribas' presentation to European analysts who cover the company, he followed the discussion quite easily - it was in English.

Sharing the Rent

Flatiron Partners, a New York venture capital firm, is shacking up with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., its sole limited partner, to save money on rent.

The cozy setup will save Flatiron several million dollars a year, said Jerry Colonna, a managing partner at the firm.

The move is a good fit. When Mr. Colonna and his partner, Fred Wilson, started Flatiron in August 1996, they worked out of Chase Capital Partners' offices. They later moved to the 15th floor of 257 Park Avenue South.

Now, Mr. Colonna and about 20 other Flatiron employees are moving back uptown to the J.P. Morgan Partners offices in the McGraw Hill building at 1221 Avenue of the Americas. And he's taking his toys - most of which are from Disney World - with him.

The new offices have much better artwork, "except for a piece my sister created," Mr. Colonna said. They also have fish, he said.

All kidding aside, this is "primarily about saving money and working in a more integrated way," he said.

The fact that a handful of high-profile companies in which Flatiron had invested have folded in recent months has led to a lot of misconceptions in the market, Mr. Colonna said. "Our internal rate of return is among the top 25% of venture capital funds of all time. We're very, very pleased, and so is J.P. Morgan."

Punctuality Counts

Citigroup Inc.'s Sandy Weill says he is a strong advocate of a happy home life.

To illustrate the point, the chairman of the largest U.S. financial company and one of Wall Street's best-known dealmakers cut off a lunchtime question-and-answer session at a Goldman Sachs conference on Tuesday to make a flight to Washington.

He was headed there to accompany his wife, Joan, to the opening night of performances in the Kennedy Center by New York's acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Mrs. Weill is chairwoman of the theater's board of trustees and a key fundraiser.

"I'm doing what I'm told," Mr. Weill told the Goldman Sachs audience, "which is to get there early."

Where was Bud?

Phil Humann may have been miffed that his offer to buy Wachovia Corp. was dismissed in December, but did he purposely time Monday's bid to needle Bud Baker?

As SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta was sending its offer letter to Wachovia's board last weekend, and as it publicly announced the bid Monday, Mr. Baker was on vacation in Italy. By Tuesday afternoon, a day and a half after the SunTrust news broke, Mr. Baker had hurried back to his office, a Wachovia spokesman said.

Asked about the offer's timing, a SunTrust spokesman replied: "We've examined a lot of details in preparing this proposal, but Bud Baker's travel schedule was not one of them."

By Laura Mandaro, Alissa Leibowitz, Liz Moyer, and David Boraks

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.