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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 5, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

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This week's items: Bill Lockhart not running for Pinellas County clerk of the courtFormer partner Jamie Slater and Bruce Young feud Influential stock market watchers let go, but still to speak beofre Financial Analysts Society of Tampa Bay

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Bill bows out

Don't expect Bill Lockhart as a candidate for Pinellas County clerk of the court, though he had pondered the idea of replacing retiring Clerk Karleen DeBlaker.

Lockhart, the 6th Circuit's retired court administrator, told GCBR last year that he expected to run for the constitutional office. But a source who spoke with Lockhart about a month ago says he is no longer considering public office.

"He's in Africa right now. He said he's enjoying his retirement too much."

Coffee Talk is amazed to learn that Lockhart, a fixture for decades at the Clearwater courthouse, prefers travel overseas to getting tangled up in the ever-pressing state court funding issue. Not really. Others, such as the new court administrator, Gay Inskeep, must be envious.

Breakup

You've heard the stories about the messy breakups of law partners. Clients are fought over. Locks on office doors are changed. Some attorneys act far worse than spurned lovers feuding over the children, pets or marital assets.

But the recent problems between Palm Harbor lawyers Jamie Slater and Bruce Young, who have practiced together since at least 1999, seem especially tumultuous. Slater, who has handled some high-profile criminal cases and is known for his easy-going manner, showed up for a divorce trial Feb. 23 in Dade City to discover Young had called the proceeding off.

The previous Friday Young had sent 6th Circuit Judge Linda Babb a fax telling her that Slater was home in bed, out of his mind.

Now, Slater says the charge is ludicrous. He had the flu for a week or two, but he's feeling quite fine these days.

Babb was obviously unhappy to be caught in the men's bickering. She has ordered Young to pay the costs incurred by witnesses who had been scheduled to travel to the courthouse for the two-day divorce trial.

Last call?

The timing was a little startling.

Coffee Talk received word March 2 that the Financial Analysts Society of Tampa Bay was bringing in one of America's most influential stock market watchers to speak at the society's next meeting.

Later that day, Charles L. Hill's employer announced he was leaving the company.

What gives?

Dubbed "Father Earnings" in a recent Associated Press story, Chuck Hill has been in charge of gathering, compiling and analyzing profit forecasts from Wall Street investment firms for Boston-based Thomson First Call since 1992.

But First Call is cutting Hill loose as its research director. The 66-year-old Harvard Business School graduate says his departure was involuntary. It is apparently part of Thomson's revamping of the First Call research office. Hill's replacement starts March 15.

So, will Hill still be making the trip south for his scheduled address to FASTB at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on March 9?

"Definitely," Hill told GCBR. As president of the analysts society in Boston, Hill says he knows how difficult it is for a volunteer organization to line up speakers for meetings.

The Florida speaking engagement does not portend an early retirement for Hill. The First Call research director, who has been credited with helping spur reform of how companies report earnings, says he intends to seek new employment on Wall Street in due course.

In the meantime, even though he recently underwent prostate cancer surgery, Hill has every intention of traveling to Ireland in June to play in a rugby tournament with his Harvard B-School alumni team. "I may be in diapers," says the chuckling Hill. "But I'll be there."

Gold finds gold

The private investors led by career banker C. Stanley Bailey who are buying the Kansas-based parent of Gold Bank won't change the name, despite a 2003 embezzlement scandal.

Bailey, who used to be chief financial officer at AmSouth Bancorp, heads up Silver Acquisition Corp. that was formed to buy Gold Banc Corp. Inc. for about $672 million. The group includes a pair of private-equity fund managers.

Gold has been expanding along the Gulf Coast since 2000 and considers the region a future growth market.

The banking company was just getting back on its feet before the Feb. 25 acquisition announcement. In December, Gold received a final restitution payment from former chief executive and chairman Michael W. Gullion, who was accused of diverting more than $3 million of bank resources to his own accounts.

The scandal alarmed federal regulators, who had Gold sign monitoring agreements last summer. The Federal Reserve Bank lifted restrictions in January after regulators restored Gold to well-managed status.

But Gold still disappointed Wall Street with its 2003 fourth-quarter results.

For instance, Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP, which also served as Gold's investment banker for the deal with the Bailey group, had forecast earnings of 19 cents a share. The firm pegged Gold's operating earnings at only 17 cents, excluding nonrecurring events like branch sales.

Gold's presence in Florida is concentrated in Charlotte, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Its biggest market share is in Manatee, where it bought the old American Bank four years ago. Gold has almost 9% of Manatee's deposits, according to SNL Financial's analysis of June 30 data.

The bank has nearly 4% of Charlotte's deposits, SNL says, but less than 1% in the Hillsborough and Sarasota markets.

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