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Firm To Invest Millions To Save 1st Mariner Bank

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Big changes are in store for the largest independently-owned bank in Baltimore. An investment firm announces it is stepping in to help the struggling 1st Mariner Bank.

Derek Valcourt has more on the deal and what it means for the man who built the bank.

If  the plan succeeds it would save the bank from government intervention. But it also means Ed Hale, the bank’s popular public face and its CEO, will have to go.

It’s a deal that would infuse an ailing 1st Mariner Bank with $160 million and require Hale to step aside as its CEO.

Hale described the deal he signed Tuesday as a good one.

“I think today’s a better day for 1st Mariner Bank. The safety and soundness of the bank, the depositors, the stockholders, the employees, just our customers overall and the community, is better off today as a result of what is happening here,” Hale said.

Hale agreed to speak with WJZ but says he’s not allowed to comment on details of the deal because of regulatory constraints.

Under the deal, New York investment firm Priam Capital has agreed to invest $36.4 million into 1st Mariner if the bank can raise an additional $123.4 million in capital from other investors.

“What you don’t know and what I don’t know is how much more bleeding is there,” said  Stuart Greenberg, banking consultant.

Greenberg says he’s surprised an investment firm sees potential given 1st Mariner’s recent financial failings, but says he’s glad the bank may survive.

“They must think the franchise is very valuable,” Greenberg said. “I just don’t understand it yet and don’t see the value yet.”

As for Hale, he’ll remain one of the largest stockholders in the bank and tells WJZ that he’s not leaving Baltimore.

“I’m on the Baltimore Blast. I’m the chairman of Visit Baltimore.  I’m going to be a partner in a shopping center, which is going to be right next door here. I’m going to be a busy guy,” Hale said.

In a written statement, Priam Capital’s managing partner and Baltimore native Howard Feinglass said: “We see a unique opportunity to invest in 1st Mariner, which following the recapitalization will play an instrumental role in the ability of the Baltimore metropolitan area to continue to develop and prosper.”

If the deal goes through, it would give 1st Mariner one of the highest capital ratios of any Maryland bank.

First Mariner has more than 700 employees and 24 branches.

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