A New Jersey investment group has increased its holdings in Eagle BancGroup of Bloomington, Ill., and is pushing for the sale of the $174.1 million-asset thrift.

The group, led by outspoken activist Lawrence B. Seidman, also intends to request representation on Eagle's board and would consider a proxy fight if their demands are not met, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Oct. 6.

Mr. Seidman's group first publicized its initial 6.1% stake in Eagle on Oct. 6. Days later it disclosed in an SEC filing that it had acquired an additional 32,000 shares, raising its stake to 8.9%.

The tactics are not unusual for Mr. Seidman.

In the last year he successfully pushed for the sale of two New Jersey institutions-Wayne Bancorp and IBS Financial-through proxy battles and lawsuits. And just last month he urged management at $301 million-asset 1st Bergen Bancorp in Wood-Ridge, N.J., to find a buyer.

In an interview, Mr. Seidman said he has talked once with the management at Eagle and at 1st Bergen. He said he would wait until earnings are released before he holds "more in-depth discussions" with the companies.

Eagle officials could not be reached for comment.

The parent company of First Federal Savings and Loan Association, Eagle is a two-branch operation established in 1919 that primarily focuses on mortgage and auto loans. It converted from mutual to stock form in July 1996.

As of June 30 the company reported six-month earnings of $403,000, or 37 cents a share, compared with $296,000, or 25 cents a share, for the same period last year.

Since Eagle BancGroup is trading below book value and has a 17% equity- to-asset ratio, Mr. Seidman suggested that Eagle buy back stock to deploy its excess capital.

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