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John Koelmel, who guided First Niagara Financial Corp. on a multi-state expansion over the last four years, has resigned as president and CEO, bank representatives announced late Tuesday afternoon.
The bank’s board of directors has appointed Gary Crosby as Koelmel’s immediate successor while a search is undertaken for a permanent replacement, representatives said.
Koelmel’s departure was mutually agreed upon, representatives said. Koelmel also has stepped down from his position on the board.
“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 a statement.
“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.”
A committee of independent directors on the board has been formed to search for a new president and CEO, the statement said. It will be chaired by board member Nathaniel Woodson. An executive search firm will be retained to assistant in the selection process, it said.
Crosby has been executive vice president and chief administrative and operations officer at First Niagara.
Koelmel received nearly $3.8 million in 2012, up 16 percent from 2011, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows.
Koelmel directed First Niagara through its acquisitions of bank branches in the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and southern New England markets, and most recently led the acquisition of 195 HSBC Bank USA N.A. branches in Upstate New York and Connecticut.
“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,” Koelmel said in the statement. “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.”
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