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These articles were prepared for the July 18, 2001 edition of U.S.
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People to Watch: Tom Gray
Tom Gray aims to start his third bank this fall. His
first was Carnegie Bank on Alexander Road, and he sold it to Sovereign
Bank. His second was Grand Bank NA, on Route 1 South and he sold it
to MetLife. If his just-submitted application is approved, his third
bank will start out at Five Points in Hamilton, a location that used
to belong to his first bank, Carnegie.
The name? Don’t give up on a good name is Gray’s motto, so the new
entity will be called "Grand Bank NA."
Gray, 51, went to Seton Hall, Class of 1971, and immediately went
to work for the state office of the control of currency (OCC). Then
he worked at People’s National Bank in Denville and Lafayette Bank
in Bridgeport, Connecticut, before coming to Princeton to found
Bank in 1988. He grew it to $500 million and sold it to Sovereign
Bank, then started Grand Bank N.A.
It was a surprise, Gray says, when MetLife came to him with an offer
to buy Grand Bank. Metlife was not after the assets or the clients,
but merely the charter. That sale went through on March 1.
was never really interested in the customers and assets of Grand
says Gray. He has just applied for the bank’s federal charter and
expects to open in the last quarter of this year.
Gray has apparently made lots of money for his investing cohorts,
because he has already finished the new Grand Bank’s initial
of $6 million. The shares cost $85,000 and "as little as one share
has been spoken for," he says. "That will get us up to about
$100 million. As soon as we have the deal firmed with MetLife to
the assets and the liabilities that went with Grand Bank, we will
raise some additional capital, probably about another $6 or $6.5
to grow the bank to the $200 million level. Hopefully, that will
shortly after opening the doors."
Gray will start off as chairman, president and CEO of the new bank,
and he expects Mark Wolters will take over in a year. Wolters has
to stay on as president and CEO of the new MetLife Bank through
2002. After MetLife relinquishes its space on Route 1 South, Gray
will take it over for Grand Bank’s new headquarters.
Single, Gray has a 23-year-old son who is about to start graduate
school in London. He has a second home in Florida where, handily
he has another bank property. "Several of us bought Admiralty
Bank in Florida in 1998," he says, "and I fly back and forth
twice a month."
Hamilton 08619. Thomas L. Gray Jr. Box 561, Kingston, 08528.
08534. 856-751-9000. Www.commerceonline.com
The Pennington/Hopewell area — a location much
by new banks and community banks — is getting a branch of Commerce
Bank. The opening on Saturday, July 28, will come complete with face
painting and clowns, plus the launching of a free coin-counting Penny
"We have always stressed customer service and have seen ourselves
not as a bank but as a retailer," says Sandra R. Martin, bank
To that end, the bank hired InterArch of Mt. Laurel to design its
3,600 square-foot look-alike branches and contracts with local
in this case Clemens Construction of Clarksville Road, to do the
Each costs $1 million, from footings to landscaping. "All our
buildings have the same exterior and interior layout for the arcade
and teller station," says Martin. "Because we see ourselves
as a retailer, it is important that each and every one is recognizable
as a Commerce Bank branch."
With $9.3 billion in assets and nearly 160 branches in the three-state
area, the bank bills itself as the "fastest-growing independent
financial services retailer" and hopes to open 35 new offices
this year alone. Though chartered at both the state and federal
it calls itself a regional community bank.
Vernon W. Hill, the chairman and president, was the son of a banker
in Virginia and founded this bank in 1973. The Pennington branch’s
manager is John Heichel, formerly branch manager for First Washington
State Bank on Alexander Road. A Penn State graduate, Class of 1983,
he has also worked at Mellon Bank in State College, Pennsylvania,
and was branch manager at Summit Bank, New Providence.
A natural promotional tie-in, Commerce Bank believes, is with the
name in Pennington, which has its own Pennytown section — and
the bank has a real penny arcade complete with a coin counting
Unlike counting machines in supermarkets, which take a tithe of the
take, this one is absolutely free, even for non-customers.
Commerce Banks are open seven days a week, which is very unusual for
a bank branch that is not located in a supermarket, and will
offer free personal checking for the first year, with a minimum
of $100 in years following.
31, Box 999, Pennington 08534. James Hyman, president and CEO.
A community bank that started out in Hopewell has just
raised more than $2 million in a secondary stock offering, says James
Hyman, president and CEO. "We are able to take in money through
the end of the week, but the offering has done very well," says
Hyman. "Anything above $1 million would have been fine."
The bank now has $58 million in assets and just over $43 million in
loans. With the additional $2 million, the bank will have $8.2 million
in capital, allowing the bank to grow to $82 million in assets.
The bank has bought a former Summit branch at 8300 Quakerbridge Road
and will open this facility as a full service branch with drive-up
windows in the fall. It has a branch in Pennytown Shopping Village
and next year hopes to have a fourth location.
New Brunswick 08901. Chris Van Der Stad, president and CFO.
This two-year-old state chartered commercial bank has
made a 30-day extension for its secondary offering of common stock.
The new deadline is July 31. The over-the-counter "pink sheet"
stock is priced at $20 per unit, with am minimum purchase of 125
With each unit comes a warrant for purchase of an additional share
at $21 in 2002 or $22.50 in 2003.
"We are capitalized at $6 million, and our assets are right around
$60 million with deposits at $55 million. With another $5 million
we could grow to $110 million," says Chris Van Der Stad, president
and CFO. Stock sales were "slower than we had anticipated,"
he says. A graduate of Montclair State University, Class of 1979,
he was formerly the comptroller-vice president of United National
Bank in Bridgewater.
This is the fourth bank that 78-year-old Mayo Sisler, the chairman
and CEO, has started. In 1986 he founded the New Era Bank in Somerset,
and was chairman, president and CEO until its merger with United
Bank in 1995. New Millennium Bank opened in July, 1999 and added a
branch location in Franklin Township in 2000.
New Millennium Bank emphasizes neighborhood banking for consumers
and businesses, and is focusing on the growing minority population
in the New Brunswick area. It has Spanish speaking tellers and
service people. Says Van Der Stad. "We have 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
hours for the drive through and walk up windows in New Brunswick,
and Thursday hours to 7 p.m. everywhere."
Brunswick 08901. Chris Van Der Stad, president and CFO. 732-729-1100
or 888-592-4646; fax, 732-729-4399.
The building at 353 Nassau Street, formerly occupied
by the Center for Healthcare Strategies (CHS), now houses Novazyme
Pharmaceuticals Inc, a drug development firm. CHS is a nonprofit that
administers health care programs funded by foundations, principally
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It moved from 6,000 feet on Nassau
Street to 12,000 feet on Lenox Drive.
Novazyme, a drug development firm, is doing research on Pompe’s
The firm has raised $24 million in two rounds of preferred stock from
investors that include Nassau Street-based HealthCare Ventures,
Health & Technology Partners in Boston, and the Perseus-Soros
Fund and Morgan Stanley, both in New York. Michael Titus, Novazyme’s
new senior director of regulatory affairs, had been vice president
of operations at Cytogen Corporation on College Road.
John Crowley, the CEO, has had two of his three children diagnosed
with Pompe’s disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy that is the
lead target of this company. The son of a police officer in Englewood,
Crowley graduated from Georgetown University in 1989, earned a law
degree from Notre Dame, and practiced healthcare law in Indianapolis.
He earned his MBA at Harvard and did marketing and business strategy
at Bristol-Myers Squibb before helping to found this company.
Novazyme aims to speed up the clinical development of therapeutic
programs developed by William M. Canfield at the University of
Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. It has announced "highly
promising results" from pre-clinical studies in laboratory animals
engineered to have Pompe’s disease, which degrades muscles and can
be fatal. About 5,000 people nationwide have this rare, lysosomal
storage disease that is usually fatal in early childhood.
Princeton 08540. John Crowley, CEO. 609-683-4400; fax, 609-683-1771.
Drive, Suite 105, Lawrenceville 08648. Stephen A. Somers PhD,
609-279-0700; fax, 609-279-0956.
C, Box 1016, Pennington 08534. 609-737-7976; fax, 609-430-0631.
Gary Mertz moved his four person firm back to 1,000
square feet in Pennington Office Park, 65 Main Street, after a short
period in a stand-alone building in Lawrence. "This is where our
client base is, and this space is more conducive to professional
The firm focuses on residential work but also does such commercial
work as additions to Lakeview Child Centers, the NovaSoft building
on Quakerbridge Road, an adult day care center in Orange, a 40,000
square foot building for Joe Pintinalli diagonally across from
and various residential projects.
Mertz, age 44, grew up in Bergen County, where his mother is a
and his father worked for National Industries for the Blind. As a
result of vocational testing he worked as a carpenter for four years,
then went to North Carolina State, and studied architecture at Drexel.
He started this company in 1996. His wife, Sarah, is associate
director for the American Red Cross on Alexander Road.
Box 6710, Lawrenceville 08648-6710. Douglas C. Borden, president.
609-896-3434; fax, 609-895-1468.
Borden Perlman Insurance, a property and casualty agency, moved from
3 Princess Road to Brunswick Pike. The company offers insurance,
risk management, and it is the result of a 1995 merger between WS
Borden Co., which originally specialized in industrial and
insurances and operated at 224 West State Street, and Perlman
which sold mostly commercial and retail insurance from 133 Franklin
Road, Suite 1, Box 183, Princeton 08542-0183. John Short, CEO and
president. 908-281-5100; fax, 908-281-5103.
On Wednesday, July 18, the market research firm’s share were to begin
trading on Nasdaq as ORCI. Shares had been trading on the American
Stock Exchange (AMEX) under the symbol "OPI." "This is
part of our plan to increase the visibility of Opinion Research within
the investment community and to improve our stock’s liquidity,"
says John F. Short, chairman and CEO.
Founded in 1938, Opinion Research bills itself as "a
global marketing services firm" with market intelligence,
training and teleservices.
Lucent Technologies announced it will close its
225,000 square foot Hopewell campus where its forces had been
only 200 employees and 100 consultants remained. Lucent employees
are mourning not only the loss of their jobs but also the downslide
of what could have remained one of the nation’s most innovative firms.
For four decades this Carter Road property had been the focal point
for the development of the newest in telecommunications technology
— first with Western Electric, followed by Bell Labs and AT&T
with Lucent taking over in 1996. But Lucent began to miss earnings
targets in late 1999. Meanwhile all telecom businesses lost ground.
Last week’s announcement of the site’s closing coincided with the
"last day" for most of the 300 Carter Road workers. Of the
more than 8,500 Lucent workers who took buy-out plans, 2,500 are from
New Jersey. Some non-technical jobs may be transferred to Murray Hill,
Warren, Holmdel, Whippany, or Liberty Corner.
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