Morthland: Bank’s direction of deepening concern’

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2007


In an open letter to &8220;stockholders, customers and employees,&8221; Richard Morthland, former CEO of Peoples BancTrust Company, said his involvement in a group seeking a change in the board of directors of the bank is driven by one thing; &8220;My deepening concern for the well-being of Peoples.&8221;

In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the group calling itself the &8220;Stockholders for Progress&8221; listed its choice for nominees to the bank’s board of directors. Morthland said in the letter that the future of the bank is important to him and his family and that his work to change the bank’s direction &8220;Is not a matter of personal issues. I grew up in the bank, I am a major stockholder of Peoples, and my family has played a significant role in its success over the last 70 years. My father, my grandfather and I have worked hard for the bank and its stockholders and employees, and for the communities that it serves.&8221;

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Morthland currently owns 14 percent of the bank’s stock with members of his family also owning significant positions.

The letter states that the group plans to file a proxy statement with the SEC soliciting support from the bank’s stockholders for their slate of candidates.

Morthland would not comment on what might be contained in the proxy statement from the group, but said it would be filed as soon as the annual meeting date was set. Originally the meeting was set for May 8, but was postponed. A new date for the meeting has not been set.

Morthland said the &8220;bank is in good shape and it’s not that the bank is failing&8221; as a reason for why the group is seeking change in the board, but would not comment further, instead encouraging stockholders to reference the proxy statement when filed. He also said he didn’t understand why the annual meeting was postponed.

Peoples’ Chairman of the Board Ted Henry, in a recent letter to stockholders, was critical of Morthland’s record at the bank saying &8220;During the last five years under Mr. Morthland, the value of a share of Peoples stock declined from $21.93 to $11.65.&8221; He also said it was necessary to restructure the bank’s loan portfolio after Morthland left.

Morthland offered no remark on Henry’s statement other than to say &8220;I think my record speaks for itself.&8221;