Coconut Grove Bank has shaken up its top management and the composition of its board, as the storied institution heads in a new direction, focused on growth.
The board of directors of Coconut Grove Bankshares late Wednesday removed Chairman, President and Chief Executive Robert Coords, and elected Richard Kuci, formerly executive vice president, as the bank’s new president, chief executive and acting chairman.
“It’s a change at the top and a new direction,” said Kuci, who joined the bank in 2005 and is a shareholder.
Four members of the board of directors are also now out. In addition to Coords, Ann de las Pozas, Carmen M. Perez and Sherill Hudson will no longer be on the board, and new board members were voted in: former bankers and Coconut Grove Bank investors Michael Weintraub and Charles Stuzin, and accountant Howard Lucas.
“The shareholders and board felt it was the time to take a little different direction and change,” Kuci said, crediting Coords, who joined the bank in 2009, for leading it through a difficult period following the financial crisis.
“It was nothing major or dramatic,” Kuci said. “Sometimes some change is needed.”
Hudson, executive chairman of the board of TECO Energy, who was brought onto Coconut Grove’s board by Coords, said he was “invited not to stay.” But he has no hard feelings and remains an investor.
“With the change in the chairman and CEO, it’s logical that I would go off the board,” said Hudson, who did not attend the board meeting.
Coconut Grove Bank, founded in 1926, has spent the past few years focusing on raising capital, surviving the economic downturn, and making improvements to meet regulators’ requirements under an enforcement action. In June 2011, the bank raised $32 million in a private offering from 33 deep-pocketed local investors, including Dr. Phillip Frost, who pumped $10.7 million into the bank, becoming its largest individual shareholder with more than 20 percent of the shares.
“It’s a bank with a wonderful legacy, great reputation and very good management,” Frost said at the time. “And I thought it would be a good investment over the long term.”
Among other investors are Stuzin, an attorney and former Citizens Federal Bank chairman; Weintraub, a former owner of Pan American Bank and Intercontinental Bank; real estate investor Finlay Matheson; automobile dealer Ron Essserman, and Ted Hoepner, former vice chairman of SunTrust Bank.
The capital raised exceeded regulators’ demands, and the bank had its enforcement action lifted in September.
Most recently, Coconut Grove Bank has agreed to sell its headquarters building in Coconut Grove for a price that is “confidential,” with the closing expected in early August, Kuci said. The bank has four other branches, in Aventura, Coral Gables, Palmetto Bay and South Miami.
Now the bank is focusing its attention on growth.
“We want to focus on bringing in the right players, that have an existing book of business,” he said. They should also be well-connected and able to refer prospective clients, he added.
The bank wants to target its growth in its five existing niche areas: owner/user real estate; investor real estate; small business lending; lending to professionals, and wealth management and trust services.
“It’s time to change from playing defense to playing offense,” Kuci said. “Let’s grow again.”