Trouble-shooter for MNC resigns Recovery near, Gartman says


Peter L. Gartman, the man charged with disposing of MNC Financial Inc.'s large portfolio of problem loans and raising needed cash, resigned last week citing a desire to pursue other business interests and spend more time with his family.

Mr. Gartman, 43, who joined MNC in 1989 as an executive vice president, became treasurer and chief financial officer last year. He left Thursday as chief financial officer and vice chairman, a title he had held for 10 months.

Calling his decision "the pause that refreshes," Mr. Gartman said yesterday in an interview that he merely wanted to take a different career path now that the state's largest banking company appears headed for recovery.

"I've worked three years at MNC. They've obviously been difficult years for the company," he said. "At this stage, I think the company has more or less succeeded in turning itself around."

Mr. Gartman referred to the company's $1.1 million profit in the first quarter, most of which came from the sale of securities.

In a separate interview yesterday, MNC Chairman Alfred Lerner said Mr. Gartman's work probably will be split among a few employees.

Chief Executive Officer Frank P. Bramble said he has begun a search and expects to name successors within a week, "with a focus on internal candidates."

"In his tenure with MNC Financial, [Mr. Gartman] has made a lasting contribution towards restoring our profitability and improving our prospects for the future," Mr. Bramble said in a statement about Mr. Gartman.

Through the 1980s, Mr. Gartman developed a reputation as a turnaround specialist, spending time at various manufacturing concerns, including Emerson Electric Co. in St. Louis and Towson-based Black & Decker Corp.

The company's efforts to restore profits came at a significant human cost, including substantial layoffs in the past two years.

"I think Peter was a hard-nosed guy, and that's what you need in a CFO," Mr. Lerner said. "You have to squint at the numbers [employees generate]. You have to do a little 'woodshedding,' as President [Lyndon B.] Johnson used to call it."

"He [Mr. Gartman] was the one who had to deal with juggling the cash at the parent corporation so they could make their payments [to debt holders] over the last two years," said banking analyst Elisabeth Albert Hayes, of Chapin Davis in Baltimore. "They're not out of the woods yet, but they've made great strides."

Mr. Gartman spent much of his time during the last year overseeing South Charles Realty, the affiliate that was charged with restructuring or disposing of the problem assets at American Security Bank and Maryland National Bank, MNC's two main subsidiaries.

The parent company's portfolio of non-performing assets stood at $1.62 billion in March, its total assets at $16.7 billion.

"The outlook is pretty good" for the rest of the year, Mr. Gartman said. "There's lots of liquidity in the market."

Although he left his $330,000-a-year position with no immediate employment waiting, Mr. Gartman appears to be well-cushioned financially.

He would not discuss the terms of his departure from MNC, but in February the company granted Mr. Gartman options on 70,000 shares of stock, which can be exercised at $8.43 a share, according to the company's proxy statement.

MNC's stock closed at $8.50 a share yesterday, down 37.5 cents.

Mr. Gartman also holds options on about 110,000 shares, with an average exercise price of $5.06 a share, the proxy statement said. In February, Mr. Gartman sold 200,000 shares of MNC stock for a $1.2 million profit, according to a statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mr. Gartman said he and his family moved back to Baltimore three years ago with the intention of remaining in his hometown.

"I think when he's ready to find something, I don't think he'll have any trouble. He's a very capable guy," Mr. Lerner said.

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