Mariner, Mars Get Together

July 20, 1995|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

First Mariner Bank will place automated teller machines in all 14 Mars supermarkets in metropolitan Baltimore and will build branches in four stores, as the companies announced that Mars will also invest money in the fledgling institution and take two seats on the banking company's board of directors.

The move is one of a series by First Mariner Bancorp Chairman Edwin F. Hale Sr., who co-founded the company in May.

In addition, First Mariner plans two private placements to raise $15 million in new capital, enough to propel the bank's assets to at least $220 million.

Even Mr. Hale, who was chairman of Baltimore Bancorp and its Bank of Baltimore unit until First Fidelity Bancorp. bought them last year, acknowledged that the growth is coming faster than he had expected.

That surprise yesterday made him back away from earlier plans to sell the company to public investors when the bank reached $200 million in assets, which he thinks could happen by year-end.

The bank now has $38 million in assets. Mr. Hale owns 45 percent of the company and said he expects to buy 10 to 20 percent of the new placements of stock.

"I think [going public] would be a little premature," said Mr. Hale, who said in May that he hoped to reach $200 million in assets within two to three years.

"We have more capital than we expected. We have to show a track record, that we can have earnings, and we can go public at that point."

First Mariner missed out on one expansion opportunity, however, as Mr. Hale's bid to acquire Maryland Permanent Bank & Trust Co. failed. The bank's shareholders rejected a proxy resolution to sell the Owings Mills bank to First Mariner, and Mr. Hale said yesterday that he has withdrawn a tender offer for Maryland Permanent shares after holders of only 48 percent of Maryland Permanent shares offered to sell.

"You win some, you lose some," Mr. Hale said. "I think we have a win with this Mars deal."

The Mars deal will bring First Mariner's branch count to 12, with branches in Mars stores in Pasadena, Aberdeen, Security and Glen Burnie, Mr. Hale said. The bank has six branches and is negotiating for sites in Pikesville and Owings Mills.

For a bank whose chief selling point from the start has been Mr. Hale's Rolodex, the Mars deal is in character.

Mars Super Markets Inc. Chief Executive Dennis C. McCoy is a lobbying partner of former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, a close friend of Mr. Hale.

"We think it's going to provide a new level of service to our customers," said Mr. McCoy. "The reason Mars exists is because there's a place for locally owned, friendly organizations with the individual customer in mind."

The alliance between bank and supermarket is not novel. Common in some parts of the nation, these alliances have begun making inroads in the Baltimore market.

For example, Provident Bank of Maryland has branches or machines in Metro Food Market and Basics stores, Carrollton Bancorp has made alliances with Valu Food Supermarkets and two Maryland Wal-Mart stores, and Giant Food Inc. has automated teller machines in its markets.

Louis R. Taylor, managing director of community banking for Provident, said the exposure at 10 Metro and Basics stores where it has teller machines or branches is valuable to a small bank such as Provident or First Mariner.

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