High-Profile Merger Deals Grabbed the Headlines
There were plenty of high-profile merger deals in 2010 highlighted by big West Coast combinations accompanied by voluntary and involuntary consolidations plus conservatorships. All of this activity altered the CU landscape, most prominently in the sand states.
The NCUA's June conservatorship of the failed Arrowhead Central CU of San Bernardino and Navy Federal's agency-engineered takeover of USA Fed CU of San Diego occupied industry attention for months amid ongoing controversy over management performance.
Meanwhile, there were scores of small- and medium-sized CU mergers, too, across the U.S., some underscoring a new attitude by graying management and boards toward choosing the most tech- and product-savvy CUs to tackle future compliance and assessment headaches.
The year also saw a fair number of CUs buying individual branch properties of troubled banks. The biggest head-turner was a June deal by the $1 billion Royal CU of Eau Claire, Wis., which acquired 11 branches of the ailing AnchorBank of Madison. The acquisition included $177 million in loans, deposits and equipment.
At year end, however, the focus was on the final chapter of a giant interstate merger under way combining First Tech CU of Beaverton, Ore., with Addison Avenue FCU, of Palo Alto, Calif. to form a $4.7 billion giant on Jan. 1.
That merger had been in the works for nearly a year, with eagerly awaited approval of First Tech members made official Dec. 2. The new First Tech FCU, with headquarters in Beaverton and Palo Alto, will be rolling out its brand ads and website next month and looks for final computer conversion and service integration by June.
The combined institution will have 38 branches, 320,000 members in eight states and Puerto Rico and will include approximately 800 employees, all servicing a blue chip list of high tech firms ranging from Microsoft to Hewlett-Packard.
Not to be outdone was an equal-size pending megamerger of the $3.5 billion Kinecta FCU of Manhattan Beach and the $1.2 billion NuVision FCU of Huntington Beach. Management of both CUs was awaiting regulatory and member approval with no sign when that might come.
And in the Midwest on a smaller scale but still noteworthy was the $1.4 billion consolidation in the spring of Detroit Edison CU and NuUnion CU of Lansing rebranded as Lake Trust CU. That application has been before regulators for nearly a year.
For the $720 million Arrowhead of San Bernardino, Calif., the NCUA found it to be in a seriously deteriorated condition, a point vigorously challenged most of 2010 by the ousted and outspoken President/CEO Larry Sharp, supported by some other CU leaders in the state. The NCUA, however, countered that Arrowhead management supplied inaccurate loan data in its regulatory filings.
The NCUA ended up awarding five of Arrowhead branches to Alaska USA of Anchorage, which for two years has been scouting out California sites to expand its footprint after merging with two failing High Desert CUs.
The NCUA, which retains interim management at Arrowhead, has for months been shrinking the CU's assets, cutting operating costs and this month approved the closing of eight more of its branches in Stater Bros. stores in Southern California. A bank was expected to take over the supermarket sites, a development stirring complaints of other California CUs that the closures were giving CUs a black eye and were a backward step.
The NCUA in October completed a long sought merger for the ailing $605 million USA Fed CU of San Diego by giving its blessing to the $41 billion Navy Federal CU, which eagerly approved the offer as a way of quickly expanding its California and military presence by adding 19 new branches, including 11 base facilities in Japan and Korea.
Navy said the USA Fed merger would create a new West Coast operations base and give it the most members of any CU in California.