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CPBJ Extra Blog

Are changes at Metro normal or something we should pay attention to?

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Things are shaking up at Metro Bank.

Company officials announced recently that Howell C. Mette, 86, a member of parent company Metro Bancorp Inc.’s board of directors since 1985, has retired. The company named two replacements, pushing the number of people on the board from nine to 10.

“Mr. Mette stated that after nearly 30 years, it was time to retire,” according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The board named Jessica E. Meyers, owner and president of construction services firm JEM Group, and Thomas F. Smida, an attorney with Mette, Evans and Woodside in Susquehanna Township, to replace Mette, a founding member of the law firm.

Whether this has anything to do with all the recent activity at Metro is anyone’s guess. For those just checking in, Metro Bancorp has been under pressure from three activist investors, all of whom have a large stake in the company, to sell or merge with another bank.

The investors — PL Capital LLC, Basswood Capital Management LLC and Clover Partners LP — all made it clear over the last three months they believe the time for Metro to sell is now, as the company has posted record net income for three consecutive quarters.

Those investors, however, said they didn’t believe that growth is sustainable, so putting the bank on the block now is the way to maximize value for shareholders.

Metro hasn’t commented on the position of these investors, or whether it’s for sale. Its recent earnings release didn’t divulge any new information about the current status either. And frankly, that’s best for Metro not to mention it, because why would you muddy up an earnings report about record profits with news about a possible sale when you don’t have to?

But let’s start the rampant speculation, shall we? Mette was one of five people who have served on Metro Bancorp’s board of directors since 1985, when it was founded. President and CEO Gary Nalbandian; Alan R. Hassman, CEO of ARH Inc. in Harrisburg; Michael A. Serluco, owner of Consolidated Properties in Wormleysburg; and Samir Srouji, president and CEO of Plastic Surgery PC in Camp Hill, are the others who have been on the board since the beginning.

With possible change brewing in any company, who are the people who would want to leave the board of directors? My vote would be the old guard who might just be too tired of dealing with the outside influences that come in trying to guide the direction of the company.

Maybe that’s why Mette left. Or maybe he really did just think 30 years on the board was enough and it was time to get some new blood in. Maybe there is absolutely nothing to see here, move along, please.

But when a company like Metro is under the kind of pressure it’s facing from some of its biggest investors, these are the kinds of coincidental moves you notice. If we see any sudden retirements from any more of Metro’s old guard, then we’ll really take notice. For a while at least, everything Metro does will be coming under the microscope of scrutiny as we look for signs about its future.

Just something to keep an eye on.

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