Frank P. Bramble Sr., who helped lead MNC Financial Inc. through its darkest days and delivered a far healthier company into the hands of NationsBank Corp. one week ago, unexpectedly announced yesterday that he would leave the company by the end of the year.
Citing his desire to be the leader of a company again, MNC's former president and chief executive said he planned to spend his time looking for a new job, and helping coach his sons' basketball team. "I've missed too many games lately," he said yesterday.
Widely regarded inside MNC as an inspiring and personable leader, Mr. Bramble in the past year has also become one of Baltimore's most active civic leaders.
"We can ill-afford to lose a person like him," said Decatur Miller, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the organization of chief executive officers on whose board Mr. Bramble serves.
Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank had announced in the summer that Mr. Bramble, 45, would be in charge of improving the profitability of the company's banks across the country, as well as its credit card, mortgage, insurance and other subsidiaries.
Mr. Bramble was to work with Kenneth D. Lewis, president of the company's General Banking division and expected to be NationsBank's next chairman.
"I understand his desire to do something else," Mr. Lewis said. "And yet he clearly could have played a key role with us, and I'm disappointed that he walked."
Mr. Bramble said his job "would have been a great role, because it would have given me the opportunity to have a role in how they structured the company going forward."
But, he said, "I'm very used to being the senior executive, with lots of responsibility running a business. And I just couldn't make the transition from being at that senior corporate level to something less than that."
In addition to his job with Mr. Lewis, Mr. Bramble was named chairman of NationsBank of Maryland and was the state's senior banking executive. That meant he would represent NationsBank before customers and the community, and help shape the company's involvement in civic and philanthropic affairs in the state.
Mr. Lewis said he had not decided on a replacement for Mr.
Bramble yet but that "clearly Susan Keating will play an even more visible role since she is" the president of NationsBank of Maryland, and responsible for day-to-day operations. The odds are "better than 50-50" that Ms. Keating will replace Mr. Bramble as senior banking executive, he added.
Mr. Bramble, a Baltimore native, spent most of a 25-year career in banking at MNC and its main subsidiary Maryland National Bank. He orchestrated MNC's mergers with Washington-based American Security Bank in 1987, Virginia Federal Savings Bank in Northern Virginia the next year, and Baltimore-based Equitable Bancorporation in 1989.
In February 1991, after MNC's fortunes had plummeted and Alfred Lerner took over MNC as chairman, Mr. Bramble was appointed chief operating officer of the parent company as well as its main subsidiaries. He was promoted to chief executive five months later.
Through two frantic, touch-and-go years, Mr. Lerner and Mr. Bramble worked to save Maryland's largest banking company. At its peak in 1990, MNC had $27 billion in assets, but lost $440 million that year. As of the merger a week ago, its assets were $17 billion, and earning were $67 million in the first half of the year.
"The very best thing that I've done at MNC is making Frank Bramble CEO," Mr. Lerner said a year ago.
Mr. Bramble won't walk away empty-handed, however. It was unclear whether he would receive a $1.36 million severance payment outlined in the NationsBank merger agreement. But he holds stock options worth a total of $6.1 million.
He also was paid just over $1 million in salary and bonuses last year.
4 Mr. Bramble said he hoped to remain in Maryland.
The possibility that Mr. Bramble might leave the area "is a very bad piece of news," said Mr. Miller of the GBC. "Frank Bramble was clearly one of the most active, most caring, most responsive and most generous people in the business community."
For the GBC, Mr. Bramble leads a management training program for Baltimore City principals and others in the school system. This summer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke appointed him chairman of a new Mayor's Economic Advisory Council.