Vernon Hill was ousted from the chairmanship of Republic First Bancorp over the weekend after a Hill ally on the bank’s board, Theodore Flocco, died; the removal follows a months-long campaign by South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, who has a long history with Hill, to take control of the the Philadelphia-based bank.
As first reported by the Philadelphia Business Journal, Flocco’s death last Tuesday unexpectedly gave board members affiliated with Norcross and former TD Bank U.S. CEO Greg Braca a 4-3 majority, which they quickly used to remove Hill from the chairmanship. Hill will still be CEO of Republic First and will retain his seat on the board, but the bank’s founder, Harry Madonna, has already been selected as its new chairman.
Way back in 1973, Hill founded Commerce Bank, and Norcross worked under him for a time as the head of Commerce Insurance. But the relationship did not last beyond the sale of Commerce Bank to TD Bank, with Norcross purchasing the insurance arm and turning it into Conner Strong & Buckalew.
In January, Norcross, Braca, and Norcross’ brother Philip first unveiled their intentions to increase their stature at Republic First, which Hill became chairman of in 2016. The trio released a letter saying that results at the bank had been “so poor as to suggest an immediate reevaluation of strategy”; one suggestion for improvement was the removal of Hill, with Braca installed in his place.
Since then, the Norcross-Braca group has increased its shares in the company to 9.6%, making its members the bank’s largest non-institutional, non-insider shareholders, and filed several different lawsuits aimed at ousting Hill and turning over the bank’s records.