Heavy insider selling of Imperial Bancorp stock from June 1 through Aug. 31 suggests that executives at the $2.6 billion-asset Inglewood, Calif., company are skeptical about takeover speculation.
Imperial Bancorp insiders sold more than 1.1 million shares during the period, amid takeover talk that has lifted the stock price 76% year-to- date.
"It would certainly seem that insider expectations at this bank do not match those of (investors) who recently bid these shares higher," said Robert Gabele, president of CDA/Investnet, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a provider of insider trading data.
While many bank insiders are unloading shares, predicting the great 1995 rally in bank stocks cannot go on forever, few banks have experienced the level of insider sales at Imperial.
"Although insider selling has picked up at the major banks, there continues to be a fairly healthy pace of buying in the regionals," Mr. Gabele said. "Insiders at Imperial Bancorp, however, are acting contrary to the trend. These are historically high numbers for this bank."
Much of the insider trading at Imperial is a result of the liquidation of a trust fund started by Imperial founder George Eltinge, who died last year.
As part of that liquidation, Wayne H. Snavely, an Imperial director and trustee of the fund, sold 769,542 shares. In addition, he sold 115,079 of his own shares during the period.
The bank said Mr. Snavely sold his own shares in order to buy shares in Imperial Credit Industries, a finance company spun off by Imperial Bancorp three years ago. Imperial Bancorp still owns a 40% stake in Credit Industries, of which Mr. Snavely is chief executive.
"However, even without Snavely's sales, the fact that seven additional insiders got out of 226,391 shares during the period is noteworthy," Mr. Gabele said.
Most of the sales were for around $20 per share, indicating that the insiders, who likely purchased the shares in single digits, were capitalizing on the historically high price of Imperial equity, analysts said. Shares were trading at $23 Monday morning.
Insider selling does not always rule out a sale. Two top executives at Integra Financial Corp. each made sizable sales in the months leading up to its announced sale to National City Corp. in August.
Still, it would appear Imperial management has decided to stay independent for now and take some profits in the process, said one analyst.
Norman Creighton, chief executive at Imperial Bank, exercised options on 121,550 shares on June 5, and sold them all in the following months.
Imperial's corporate secretary, Richard Baker, said Mr. Creighton in fact had a net purchase of over 42,000 shares. Mr. Creighton used 42,770 of his own shares on June 5 to pay for the option. After that, he sold 78,780 shares. As a result, on the options he exercised, he still had the 42,770 left, Mr. Baker said.
Eldon Lloyd, Imperial's executive vice president for real estate, sold 18,206 shares. Senior vice president Jack Barkley sold 6,390 shares.
Imperial Bancorp's chairman and chief executive, George Graziadio, sold 500 shares.
Stephen Eltinge, son of the co-founder and a former director, sold 30,000 shares in July.
Former chief financial officer David Sklar sold 65,172 shares, CDA data show. Arthur Lussier, an executive vice president who also left the company, sold nearly 22,000 shares.
Bernard Lebau, a former chairman, sold 23,537 shares.