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Boston’s gay bank bought out

by Hannah Clay Wareham
Saturday Jul 3, 2010
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Eastern Bank purchases Wainwright Bank & Trust Co. for $163 million; promises to continue community involvement.

Eastern Bank will acquire Boston’s Wainwright Bank & Trust Co. in a deal that’s costing them $163 million in an all-cash transaction, the companies announced Tuesday, June 29.

Wainwright -- known for its annual awards oft given to LGBT leaders, free or no-fee banking for community organizations, and flexibility with allowing community groups, including Boston Pride, to use its facilities -- is among the largest 1,000 banks in America. The company pride itself on its traditions of community involvement and philanthropy, touting a "history of socially progressive banking" on its website, www.wainwrightbank.com. Inspired by the civil rights movement of the ’60s, Wainwright, which opened in 1987, aimed to continue working toward equal rights for all -- taking special care to include the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, as well as those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

"It is a pleasure to join forces with an organization that is an acknowledged leader in many social justice issues, including development of affordable housing, support of community health centers, and leadership in improving the environment and protecting the rights of all," Richard E. Holbrook, chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank, said in a prepared statement. "By combining our two organizations, we will broaden our horizons and do even more to make our communities a better place to work and live, while providing our customers with top-notch banking, investment, and insurance services. I cannot think of a more appropriate partnership than this one combining a 192-year-old mutual company with the banking industry’s leader on socially progressive issues."

Once the merger is complete -- a move that is expected to happen during the fourth quarter of this year -- the combined organization will offer more than 90 retail banking offices across eastern Massachusetts, including 22 in the metro Boston area.

The prepared statements released by the companies reiterated their commitment to social justice and community involvement. "The merger combines two banks with strong traditions of commitment to our customers, employees, and the communities we serve," said Jan A. Miller, President and CEO of Wainwright Bank & Trust Co., said. "We are pleased that Eastern will maintain and continue to build upon Wainwright’s community development lending initiatives and deep commitment to issues of social justice."

Following the announcement of the merger, representatives of Boston-based LGBT organizations began expressing their appreciation for Wainwright’s commitment to social justice and community service, as well as their hopes that Eastern Bank will continue the meaningful work.

"Wainwright Bank has been a wonderful friend and partner to the LGBT community and the Pride Committee," Keri Aulita, Deputy Director of the Boston Pride Committee, told Bay Windows. "Of course it remains to be seen how the sale will change the bank’s course, but we hope that Eastern Bank will continue to uphold Wainwright’s important tradition of supporting local, community-based, non-profit organizations."

"This is really a moment to acknowledge and thank [Wainwright co-founder] Bob Glassman and all of his associates," Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of the AIDS Action Committee (AAC), said. "I would say no organization in Boston has been a bigger friend to the LGBT community than Wainwright Bank under Bob’s leadership. They were one of the first agencies or organizations to march in the gay parade; they’ve been early, early supporters of HIV and AIDS issues and went out on a limb as an organization long before other organizations were willing to do so, and I think their leadership brought many other great corporate players to the table."

Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, joined her peers in lauding the networking Glassman and Wainwright Bank did on behalf of LGBT organizations. "Bob Glassman in particular has helped us reach out to other corporate people," Swislow said. "He hosted a breakfast for us where we were able to invite other corporate folks to learn about GLAD. I think both Wainwright’s commitment as an organization and Bob Glassman’s personal commitment has just been unwavering."

Swislow has high hopes for Eastern Bank to continue Glassman’s work. "I just can’t imagine that he would have agreed to a sale without being confident that the work that’s been so central to his life and will be so much a part of his legacy...if he didn’t think that that would continue," she said.

Eastern Bank Corporation has donated an average of more than 10 percent of its net income to charity, netting almost $50 million in the past ten years. Eastern intends to continue to present the Wainwright Social Justice Award, a trademark of Wainwright’s continued dedication to the communities it serves. Past recipients of the award include Julie Marston and Dr. Calvin Cohen of the Community Research Initiative of New England (2006); Mary Bonauto and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (2004); Jonathan Scott of Victory Programs, Inc. (2001); and Todd Summers of the AIDS Housing Corporation (1995).

"My hope is that Eastern Bank adopts and lives up to the expectations that Wainwright has created with the LGBT community," Haag said. "I think that would be a very smart business decision on their part. Many of us including myself bank personally with Wainwright because of its commitment to our community, and I expect that as the President of Eastern has said, that they want to continue this commitment."

Wainwright made history when, over fifteen years ago, the company began offering same-sex domestic partner employee health benefits through the Massachusetts Bankers Group Health Insurance program after lobbying to obtain the coverage since 1992. In the early ’90s, Brenda Cole was virtually the first out lesbian to serve on the board of a publicly traded institution in the nation’s history after she was recruited by Wainwright founders John Plukas and Glassman.

The bank’s community involvement has also extended to the realm of politics. Cole joined other Wainwright representatives in 1996 as one of two Massachusetts companies to testify before Congress in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). After The Advocate named the bank in the top 10 companies nationwide for gay and lesbian employees in 2000, Wainwright formally opposed Massachusetts Defense of Marriage legislation that would have denied marriage rights to same-sex couples in November of 2002. The following year, Wainwright representatives addressed the General Court of Massachusetts in support of marriage equality. By that time, the bank had a recognized presence at Boston Pride parades.

In addition to LGBT issues, Wainwright dedicated resources and time to women’s issues, homelessness, and community leadership. "Wainwright Bank has been an extraordinarily creative, socially responsible bank," openly gay Congressman Barney Frank said before the House Financial Services Committee by way of introduction to Miller’s Congressional testimony. "[A]mong the projects in which they have worked on affordable housing was one in which my mother [Elsie Frank] was very active. It’s a very creative program providing aid to homeless women, a group very much neglected. So I’m very appreciative of Wainwright for showing how profitability and social responsibility combine."

Under the terms of the merger, Wainwright shareholders will receive $19 cash for each share of common stock and common stock equivalents outstanding.

Copyright Bay Windows. For more articles from New England's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.baywindows.com

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