Magazine article American Banker

New York Thrift's Chairman Playing Merger Hardball

Magazine article American Banker

New York Thrift's Chairman Playing Merger Hardball

Article excerpt

By ELSTEIN, AARON

By nearly any measure, John M. Tsimbinos is a civic-minded banker. While working his way up the corporate ladder, he taught evening and weekend courses in banking and corporate finance at Queens College, part of his alma mater, City University of New York.

In June 1993, 10 years after becoming chairman of T R Financial Corp., he took the mutually held Garden City, N.Y., thrift company public and enriched thousands of depositors.

But when it comes to selling his company, Mr. Tsimbinos is proving to be a hard bargainer whose mien is strictly business.

After agreeing last May to sell to neighboring Roslyn Bancorp in a $750 million all-stock deal widely viewed as rich, Mr. Tsimbinos and the T R board on Dec. 29 asked Roslyn to up its offer by 3.1% to partially offset the fall in Roslyn's own share price since the deal was struck.

If Roslyn fails to pay more-and the company has said it will not-T R has threatened it may cancel the merger, though shareholders in both companies approved the deal Dec. 22.

Mr. Tsimbinos' stance is no doubt dictated by what he feels is best for shareholders. And when it comes to T R shareholders, Mr. Tsimbinos is No. 1.

He owns a 6.7% stake in the Long Island thrift, or more than 1.2 million shares. That makes him the company's largest shareholder, according to T R's most recent proxy statement.

The second-largest shareholder is Thomson, Horstmann & Bryant, a Saddle Brook, N.J., money management firm, which owns 6.6%.

Though many top executives in New York-area thrifts that have de- mutualized over the past five years are big shareholders in their companies, proxy statements show that few if any others own a stake as large as Mr. Tsimbinos.

For example, George L. Engelke, chairman of Astoria Financial Corp., owns a 2.5% stake in his thrift; GreenPoint Financial Corp. chairman Thomas S. …

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