It will be the end of an era when two veterans of Synovus Financial Corp. step down from its board this spring.
Former chairmen and chief executives James H. Blanchard and Richard E. Anthony will not stand for reelection, the Columbus, Ga., company said on Friday. Richard Y. Bradley, who has been a board member since 1991, also will not seek another term because he has reached the company's mandatory retirement age.
The company has nominated businessmen Stephen T. Butler and Jerry W. Nix to stand for election at its annual shareholder meeting on April 26.
"We are losing a legacy," Kessel Stelling, the chairman and CEO of Synovus, said. "There is 83 years of service between the three of them and all three have dedicated the better part of their adult lives to this company."
After this transition, Synovus's board will have 15 members, Stelling said.
Blanchard led Synovus for more than 35 years before he retired as CEO in 2005 and chairman a year later. Anthony took over for Blanchard until he had to take a medical leave to undergo treatment for a blood vessel disorder that was diagnosed in June 2010. Anthony retired as CEO in 2010 and as chairman in January.
Butler, 61, is chairman of W.C. Bradley Co., a private consumer products and real estate company. He is also an advisory director of Columbus Bank and Trust, a unit of Synovus Bank.
Nix, 66, is vice chairman and chief financial officer of Genuine Parts Co., a public company that distributes automotive parts, office products and electrical materials. That company includes the well-known NAPA brand.
Synovus, which has $27 billion of assets, was hard hit by the real estate crisis in Georgia and Florida and has been the source of takeover speculation. In February, Christopher Marinac, an analyst at FIG Partners LLC, downgraded Synovus's stock from "outperform" to "market perform" in a research note after the company said it would issue new debt to repay old debt.
"For Blanchard and Anthony, personally, it may be time to move on," Marinac said in an interview Friday. "The risk of being at the epicenter if it sells may not be worth it."
Synovus may decide to sell if it cannot recoup its deferred tax asset, which will total roughly $800 million or almost a dollar per share in tangible book value. In addition to that, the "elephant in the room is that the company has not repaid [the Troubled Asset Relief Program]" and doesn't know how or when it will, Marinac said. The Treasury Department has stepped up efforts for banks to repay their outstanding federal funding.
However, the bank may be better off staying independent if it is able to earn back its deferred tax asset, Marinac added.
"I think this group will be agnostic when it comes to selling," Marinac said. "I think they will be less open to resisting."
The addition of new directors will not sway Synovus's decision whether to sell or stay independent, as "our board has long understood and understands today that its responsibility is to maximize shareholder value," Stelling said.
Synovus should realize its deferred tax asset in late 2012 or early next year, Stelling said. He expects the company to repay Tarp "soon" and that the company's prospects of remaining independent "are very strong."
"Our focus right now is on getting stronger," he added.
A company spokesman clarified later that Synovus expects to repay Tarp next year or in 2014.