Magazine article American Banker

CEO's Buying Spree Made Mercantile Ripe for Takeover

Magazine article American Banker

CEO's Buying Spree Made Mercantile Ripe for Takeover

Article excerpt

Thomas H. Jacobsen has spent the last decade on a trajectory toward the type of deal he announced Friday with Firstar Corp.

The 59-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of St. Louis-based Mercantile Bancorp. has been described by bankers and others who know him as a hard-driving executive who helped turn around the fortunes of the institution and build a company ripe for the picking.

Mr. Jacobsen arrived at Mercantile in 1989, just when the bank was struggling to overcome severe problems in its commercial loan portfolio.

In less than one year, observers said, Mr. Jacobsen had returned Mercantile to profitability. He then embarked on a decade-long acquisition campaign that boosted Mercantile's assets from $6.5 billion to $36 billion.

"He took a company that was not very well known and that was struggling and really turned things around," said David Daberko, the chairman and chief executive officer of Cleveland-based National City Corp. and a longtime friend of Mr. Jacobsen's.

"When he gets immersed in something, he really goes at it," Mr. Daberko added. "He's very goal-oriented. I think ultimately he believed that this is where it was going to go."

Mercantile's $10 billion agreement with Firstar Corp. is slated to close in the fourth quarter, at which point Mr. Jacobsen would become chairman of the new company.

A Chicago native, Mr. Jacobsen began his career at First National Bank of Chicago. After 13 years working his way through commercial and retail banking, computer operations, and capital markets, he jumped to Jacksonville, Fla. …

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