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George E. Norcross III. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Norcross group offers to invest up to $156 million in Republic First

Offer is continuation of Norcross/Braca bid to take over Philly-based bank

By Joey Fox, March 14 2022 10:08 am

A coalition led by South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross and former TD Bank CEO Greg Braca issued a proposal to Philadelphia-based Republic First Bancorp today offering to invest as much as $156 million in the bank, which the coalition has been seeking to reshape over the past two months.

Specifically, Norcross and Braca are offering to “inject $50 million into [the bank’s] operations through the purchase of newly-issued non-voting preferred stock and obtain up to a majority stake in the company,” which they said could ultimately mean a total additional investment of up to $156 million.

The group currently owns 9.6% of the bank’s shares, up from 6.6% at the beginning of the year, and has sent a letter to the Republic First board of directors asking that they be allowed to exceed a 10% share. 

Norcross and Braca have also filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission opposing the renomination of Republic First chairman Vernon Hill, with whom Norcross has a long history; their preferred candidate for his replacement is Braca himself.

The coalition’s offer of a major investment today signals the seriousness of their bid to take over the bank, which began at the end of January when Norcross, Braca, and Norcross’ brother Philip released a letter excoriating Republic First for underperforming expectations.

“We are of the opinion that the company’s depressed stock performance over several years is directly attributable to weak operating results, including return on assets and return on capital of less than half that of its peers and efficiency ratios and cost of funds for its deposits running higher than industry norms,” they wrote at the time. “Collectively, these results over the last several years have been so poor as to suggest an immediate reevaluation of strategy.”

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