But after years of trying to turn around the company he founded, that’s what the First Mariner Bancorp chairman and chief executive agreed to do last week part of a tentative deal to secure a desperately needed cash infusion of $160 million for the Baltimore institution.
“He doesn’t shy away from adversity,” said Bel Air attorney John Nowicki, who air jordan 4 went to Sparrows Point High School with Hale and bought stock in his bank both years ago and in 2010. “I’m sure this is a heartbreaker for him.”
As Hale prepares to relinquish his leadership role, he leaves an uncertain legacy. Some, admiring him for trying to bail out the parent company of 1st Mariner Bank with $2 million of his own money, wish he could stay. Those who blame him for its near collapse and stock price nosedive are delighted to see him go.
“Look at the enormity of his losses over the years,” said John Maas, a dissident investor from North Carolina who owns more than 4,500 shares. “How can he still be there?”
For his part, Hale said last week that it’s “a matter of principle” to get the bank back on solid footing, even if that means he can’t be there for a rebound. Part of his capital raising strategy last year was to appeal directly to Baltimore area residents to buy First Mariner stock, and he doesn’t want them to lose everything to federal receivership.
“I went out to people in my neighborhood that didn’t even know what a share of stock was, and they bought it because of me,” said Hale, who grew up in the blue collar areas of Highlandtown and Edgemere. “I feel a great sense of responsibility to them.”
The bank, the largest based in Baltimore, announced Tuesday that New York investment firm Priam Capital is willing to provide just over $36 million if First Mariner can raise nearly $124 million more. That would make the bank one of the best capitalized in Maryland, the company said, calling off the federal regulators poised to take over.
Hale, 64, says he has no intention of shuffling quietly off into retirement. He will still likely be the 700 employee bank’s largest individual shareholder and can sit on the board just not at the head of it through next year if the deal is successful. He also has local real estate he wants to develop, the Baltimore Blast soccer team to run, the Baltimore Convention Tourism Board to chair.
“That’s just for starters,” he said. “I’ve had numerous offers, some of which I can’t talk about.”
Hale bootstrapped his way from working class to millionaire through ventures in trucking, shipping and real estate before angry shareholders recruited him to take over the ailing Bank of Baltimore in 1991. He sold it for air jordan 10 a profit three years later, intent on starting his own bank basically from scratch.
He said he turned 1st Mariner into a significant player at “warp speed,” building it from $35 million in assets to $1.3 billion. Acquisitions played a role, as did ads starring Hale that were aimed at people tired of jordan 5 dealing with financial institutions based far from Baltimore. “Big out of town banks just don’t get it,” he told viewers in an ad last year.
When times were good, they were very good. He erected a 17 story headquarters tower for the company as part of his Canton Crossing development, put the bank’s name on what had been the Baltimore Arena and employed more than 1,000 people. At its height, the stock price topped $20 a share.
Then it all began to unravel. Near the height of the housing bubble, a Northern Virginia division started making mortgages that required little or no documentation of borrowers’ financial situations “liar loans,” as they’re known and selling them to the Bear Stearns Cos. When borrowers defaulted, as so many did across the country, Bear Stearns sent the loans back to First Mariner under a buyer’s remorse clause.
Losses quickly mounted. Regulators began circling, demanding that the bank raise more capital.
One outgrowth of the financial crisis, though, is that capital markets have been largely frozen.
So Hale invested his own money. He appealed to shareholders to buy more stock. And he went across the region to personally ask teachers, retirees and others to become shareholders.
The fundraising effort brought in more than $10 million last year, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Losses continued. And the stock that people purchased at Hale’s request is worth about a third less now, with shares trading at about 70 cents.