Niagara Gazette

March 19, 2013

Koelmel leaves First Niagara

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — First Niagara bank announced Tuesday that John R. Koelmel has been replaced as the company's president and CEO.

The announcement was made after the close of business Tuesday. First Niagara stock, last trading at $8.44, was down 6 cents in trading on the day.

In a prepared statement released by the bank, no reason was given for the board's decision, which officials said was "mutually agreed upon."

Koelmel held the banks top post since 2007, and is credited with ushering the bank from a local thrift based in Lockport to a four-state bank with approximately 430 branches, $37 billion in assets and $28 billion in deposits.

The company employs about 6,000 people across Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

“John Koelmel has guided the company’s transformation from a local thrift to a leading Northeast  banking franchise, and led First Niagara during a period of difficult economic conditions and financial industry turmoil,” board chairman Thomas Bowers said in the statement.

Gary M. Crosby, 59, was selected to serve as interim president and CEO as officials search for a permanent replacement. In the statement.

Crosby's current title is executive vice president and chief administrative and operations officer.

“The board and I are grateful to John for his leadership through this critical period in our history and for positioning us so that we can focus on enhancing shareholder value through continuing organic growth and the efficient operation of the business we have today," Bowers said. 

Koelmel was quoted in the release, but also did not shed light on the specific reason for his departure.

“I highly value the opportunity to have driven First Niagara’s rapid growth over the last six years and to position it as one of the top regional banking franchises in the Northeast. And I thank all 6,000 of my teammates for their tremendous support. I agree with the board that it’s in the best interests of the organization under present circumstances to move forward with new leadership.”

Koelmel’s board seat expired upon his departure, and as a result he will not stand for re-election to the Board at the Company’s 2013 Annual Meeting of Shareholders scheduled for April 24.

A special committee of the board’s independent directors has been formed to initiate a search for a permanent president and CEO. The committee, chaired by board member Nathaniel Woodson, will undertake "a thorough and expeditious search," according to the statement, of both internal and external candidates.