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Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 19, 201312:00 PM EST

3 elected to Atlantic Coast Financial board

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Atlantic Coast Financial Corp. shareholders elected three new directors to the company's board at its annual meeting Friday, and those directors have plenty of work to do.

After shareholders rejected a merger agreement with a South Florida bank at a special meeting in June and the company's CEO resigned a week later, the new board members will be working on plans to raise capital and find a permanent CEO.

"All of that's going to get done by the end of the year," continuing board member Jay Sidhu said after the meeting at the Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel, near Atlantic Coast Financial's Deerwood Park Boulevard headquarters.

Sidhu, a former chairman of the banking company, led opposition to the proposed acquisition by Bond Street Holdings Inc.

Sidhu thought Bond Street's offer undervalued the company and that it would be better off seeking a recapitalization.

After the merger was rejected, G. Thomas Frankland resigned as CEO and as a board member. Chief Financial Officer Thomas Wagers currently is serving as interim CEO.

Frankland's resignation was followed this month by the resignation of board Chairman John Linfante.

Frankland's and Linfante's board seats have been left vacant, and the three new directors elected Friday replace directors who chose not to seek reelection. So the board's makeup has considerably changed since the merger vote in June. There are currently seven directors on the board.

The three new directors were proposed by Sidhu and one other continuing director, Bhanu Choudhrie, has been supporting Sidhu's efforts. Sidhu said after Friday's meeting that he doesn't see himself in control of the board, and that the directors are serving independently.

"The board members have a responsibility to the company and all its shareholders. They take that responsibility seriously," he said.

Two of the new directors are former bankers, and they introduced themselves and their qualifications at the meeting.

John Dolan retired in 2011 as CEO of Pennsylvania-based First Commonwealth Financial Corp. He said he is experienced in raising capital, as he did it twice during his five years as CEO.

Kevin Champagne was chief executive of Massachusetts-based Seacoast Financial Services Corp. when it was sold in 2004 to Sovereign Bancorp. Sidhu was CEO of Philadelphia-based Sovereign at the time.

Sidhu is currently chairman and CEO of Wyomissing, Pa.-based Customers Bancorp Inc.

The third new board member, Dave Bhasin, is chief executive of a restaurant company in Pennsylvania. He did not attend Friday's meeting.

"I'm delighted that we could find very experienced board members who have agreed to join our company. The shareholders should feel very good about that," Sidhu said.

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