War heats up over Baltimore Bancorp Ed Hale drives himself to the pinnacle of power

May 12, 1991|By John H. Gormley Jr.

An article in Sunday's Business section misreported the ownership position of Legg Mason Inc. shares of Baltimore Bancorp.

A mutual fund directed by Legg Mason owns about 540,000 shares, and Legg Mason customers hold about 700,000 shares in individual accounts. The shares in the individual accounts are voted, for purposes of electing Baltimore Bancorp directors, by the individual clients. Legg Mason's fund managers vote the shares in the mutual fund.

The Sun regrets the error.

In the parking lot of the Anchorage marina, Edwin F. Hale Sr. pops open the trunk of his navy-blue Lincoln and tosses his tennis bag inside next to his fishing equipment and shotgun.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Ed Hale is a man who likes his toys, and not all of them fit inside the trunk of his car. On this bright and breezy Tuesday before Mother's Day, he has come to the marina to take his mother and some of her friends from the old Sparrows Point neighborhood for their annual excursion on his company's yacht.

The Exuberance, as Mr. Hale's boat is called, is not hard to find among the scores of big cabin cruisers and sailboats tied at their slips. The 85-foot mahogany-hulled vessel, which once served as the America's Cup Committee Boat, is the only one in the marina with sufficient pretentions to power to warrant a smokestack on its cabin roof.

Aboard, Mr. Hale takes his place beside his mother. Dressed in a dark-blue business suit, blue pinstripe shirt, paisley tie and black tasseled loafers, Mr. Hale looks very much the powerful and wealthy executive he has become.

But the casually dressed, middle-aged suburban women surrounding him are a reminder of his origins -- the row houses of Highlandtown where he was born and the modest blue-collar suburbs of Sparrows Point where he grew up.

Mr. Hale, 44, has risen from that background without ever leaving it behind.

Without benefit of a college degree or ties to Baltimore's old-line business community, Mr. Hale emerged from obscurity to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Maryland. His barge and truck companies are the biggest employers in the port. Hale Container Line Inc., his barge company, carries more cargo than any single steamship line operating out of Baltimore.

As his business success has grown, so has his influence in other spheres. Most people know him as the owner of the Baltimore Blast soccer team and for his hopes of bringing a National Football League teamto the city. He also gained unwelcome public attention when his 1987 divorce settlement -- for $6.4 million -- set a record in Maryland.

His political activities are considerable.

His fishing buddies include prominent local politicians. He recently took Gov. William Donald Schaefer to the first baseball game at the new Comiskey Park in Chicago, and he accompanies the governor on most of his international trade missions. (He is scheduled to go with the governor on his trip to the Far East next month.) With intimate knowledge of the maritime industry, Mr. Hale is arguably the governor's closest adviser on port issues.

His yacht gives him a place to entertain like royalty, and his corporate jet is available to whisk him wherever his fishing whims would take him, from the Florida keys to northern Ontario's remote lakes.

Standing on the afterdeck of the Exuberance as it cruises past the condos of the Canton waterfront, his mother, Carol Hale, wonders out loud what is left for her son to conquer. "I ask him, 'You have reached the top. What else can you do?' "

Hesitating only momentarily, she answers her own question. "There's this bank business."

This bank business.

Mr. Hale would dearly love to add a bank to his collection of trucks, tugs, barges, yacht, jet, athletes and political allies. The reasons are as complex as his nature. He is motivated, he says, by a desire to do good. His purchase of the Blast kept the soccer team in Baltimore, which, he says, helped the downtown economy. Likewise, his group can strengthen Baltimore Bancorp, again helping the local economy, he argues. "We need a good Baltimore bank," he says.

Although he doesn't claim to have any expertise in running a bank, one of the people in his group, Charles H. "Buck" Whittum Jr., does. Mr. Whittum is the former executive vice president of Union Trust Co., which became Signet Bank after its merger with Bank of Virginia.

Mr. Hale insists that his team would do a much better job of managing the bank, to the benefit of stockholders, depositors, lenders and the local economy.

An entrepreneur to the core, Mr. Hale acknowledges that he stands to make money on the deal. If successful in taking over the bank, Mr. Hale expects to become chairman. Some of his compensation could come in the form of stock or rights to acquire stock. If the bank's performance improves under his group's tutelage, the value of the stock will go up, to the benefit of Mr. Hale and all other stockholders.

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