In his latest thrift investment, shareholder activist Jerome H. Davis appears to have changed his tune. But observers familiar with his strategies say they've heard this song before.
The Connecticut stockholder has a reputation for investing in thrifts and then urging management to sell.
A filing last week relating to a recent stock acquisition includes a statement of purpose not usually associated with Mr. Davis: that he does not intend to change or influence control of the company.
Mr. Davis and his wife, Susan, had acquired 9.96% of stock in the initial public offering of AMB Financial Corp., a $70 million thrift in Munster, Ind.,
According to the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Davises "acquired the shares ... for investment and not for the purpose of changing or influencing the control of AMB Financial."
He's made similar declarations before when making initial investments. It's when he amends it that thrifts take note.
Mr. Davis was out of town and did not return telephone messages. But his attorney, David M. Perlmutter of New York, conceded that Mr. Davis can change his mind.
He bought AMB "because he thought it was a good investment," Mr. Perlmutter said. However, the lawyer added, Mr. Davis has often made such statements when buying initial stakes "and amended them when management, in his view, wasn't looking at the whole picture."
One example of such a switch involved $159 million-asset LSB Financial Corp., Lafayette, Ind., one of many thrifts Mr. Davis has urged to sell.
Mr. Davis invested in LSB's initial public offering in February 1995 but amended his intentions six months later.
"Mr. and Mrs. Davis now believe that their investment in the common stock would substantially appreciate in value through LSB's participation in an acquisition transaction," read his amended filing in August.
John Corey, LSB's president and chief executive, said he could only speculate on Mr. Davis' current intentions. Mr. Davis is divesting his shares in LSB, which did not seek a sale, Mr. Corey said.
"With us I think his philosophy was: Every bank is for sale," the banker said. "He may be changing his investment goals and may feel that he's willing to let the stock appreciate after the initial offering."
Clement B. Knapp Jr., AMB's president and chief executive, said he doesn't know what Mr. Davis will do.
"I think he's after shareholder value," Mr. Knapp said. "I've not talked to him since he made the purchase. I don't have any feelings as to which way he's going."