Wednesday, April 10, 2002

What's the Buzz?

5/3, Star grew minus each other

        It was the day before Good Friday in 1992 when the fax machine started spinning — not much e-mail back then — launching an exciting 10-week period for Greater Cincinnati business circles.

        Fifth Third Bancorp, the fax told us, had offered up to $40 a share to buy Star Banc Corp. Star's board of directors had rebuffed the offer. But Fifth Third CEO George Schaefer would persist, calling the potential combination of regional banks “Fortress Cincinnati.''

        A decade after the April 16, 1992, announcement, the potential deal seems unremarkable. Even after Fifth Third sweetened the offer to $42 a share, it didn't even hint at the explosion in size and value that both banks offer today.

        Fifth Third has expanded to Chicago with $70 billion in assets, while Star Bank has gone through two mergers and is now called U.S. Bancorp, with assets of $171 billion.

        What made the episode noteworthy was how far beyond polite Cincinnati standards Fifth Third had reached and how bitter the Star Bank response became.

        Star CEO Oliver Waddell wasn't even in town. While he scrambled to abort his European vacation, second-in-command Sam Cassidy assembled a news conference to tell us that Star would remain independent.

        “The price was inadequate, period, and they were told that,” Mr. Waddell recalled this week. “They had agreed to not go public until I went to Europe, and then they went public.”

        Both Mr. Waddell and Mr. Cassidy retired from Star within two years, giving way to high-energy CEO Jerry Grundhofer and his cohorts from Security Pacific National Bank in California.

        Mr. Schaefer eventually gave in on buying Star. But he hasn't gone anywhere, with a new operations center in Madisonville and a powerhouse bank that remains among the country's leanest operations.

Kramer in real estate

       Three months after leaving the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce in an office restructuring, Joe Kramer has landed at Henkle Schueler & Associates real estate in Lebanon.

        During his 20-year career at the chamber, Mr. Kramer became the region's top economic development recruiter. He started his new job Tuesday, running Henkle Schueler's industrial sales department.

        Mr. Kramer, 52, said he has steered prospects into Henkle Schueler's property and has known company president Michael Schueler for two decades. He is working toward a real estate license.

        “Real estate is fundamentally a people business,” he said. “You have to be confident that people will follow through and do what they said they'll do.”

        If you have a tip about Greater Cincinnati companies, e-mail Cliff Peale at or call 768-8573.


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- What's the Buzz?