Provident chairman to retire Carl W. Stearn ends 8-year tenure in April, to serve as adviser

'This is normal turnover'

Bank's president, Peter Martin, will be next CEO, chairman

September 18, 1997|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Provident Bankshares Corp.'s chairman and chief executive, Carl W. Stearn, who for the past seven years has run the state's second largest independent bank, will retire next spring, the company said yesterday.

Stearn will be succeeded by Peter M. Martin, Provident's president and chief operating officer, when he retires April 15 at the company's annual meeting.

Stearn will be employed as a consultant to Provident and remain on the Baltimore-based banking company's board for three years, he said in an interview last night.

"I am proud of the growth and performance of Provident Bank over the last seven years," Stearn said. "We are positioned to remain a strong, stable independent Maryland bank."

Stearn said that he expects Martin to continue building Provident and increase its profitability.

He said he is retiring because he will be 65 years old in February.

"This is normal turnover," he said. "It is time for me to step aside" and let Martin and younger executives take over.

Stearn and Martin, both former executives of Equitable Bancorporation, took charge of Provident in 1990, when it was suffering from souring commercial real estate, auto and business loans, like other institutions in the country.

"We had to write down a lot of bad loans," Stearn recalled. "The bank really didn't have a whole lot of good business."

Stearn and Martin stabilized Provident after they arrived, and the bank grew from $1.3 billion in assets and 38 branches to its current $3.7 billion in assets and 64 branches.

Provident's earnings per share also revived, going from a loss of 65 cents in 1990 to a profit of 48 cents in 1991 and $2.50 last year.

Provident was once a savings and loan, but it converted in 1987 to a bank charter and grew in prominence as many competitors were acquired by out-of-state banks.

Last month, Provident surprised industry experts by acquiring Citizens Savings Bank of Gaithersburg for about $100 million. The deal expanded Provident into the affluent Montgomery County market and Frederick County.

The bank was also recently recognized as the "best" bank in Maryland by Money magazine.

While profits have been steadily rising, Provident's stock has been sizzling, partly on speculation that it will be acquired.

It reached a 52-week high of $51.50 on Tuesday, up nearly 40 percent since the beginning of the year. It closed yesterday at $51 a share.

Stearn sees the company remaining independent. "That's our plan, absent some offer we feel compelled to take to our shareholders," he said. "We think we will continue to improve our market share."

He said Maryland needs independent commercial banks.

Stearn downplayed his accomplishments.

"I don't have great pride," he said. "I just did a job. I came to work every day."

Before joining Provident, Stearn was president and a director of Baltimore-based Equitable, which was acquired by MNC Financial Inc. MNC was itself acquired by NationsBank Corp.

At Equitable he worked with Martin, who was an executive vice president with the parent Equitable Bancorporation.

Martin came to Equitable after working for the Bank of Boston for 19 years, where he was senior vice president and head of banking operations and marketing of non-credit services.

Before beginning his banking career, Martin worked for Honeywell and General Electric.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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