The legal bills for fighting the Financial General Bankshares takeover battle cost stockholders between 6 and 7 cents a share last year, company officials disclosed today.
The estimate, given at Financial General's annual stockholders meeting, was the first public reporting of how much the company has spent in the 16-month struggle for control of the company.
The per-share estimate means the actual lawyers' fees were in the range of $400,000 to $460,000 in 1978.
"Our legal expenses at the moment are running a good deal less than at this time last year," added Financial General Chairman B.F. Saul II.
But half a dozen different legal proceedings are still under way in the case, and Saul and other executives told shareholders they see no early resolution to the dispute.
In one of those cases-a lawsuit accuring Saul and other FG officials of wasting the company's money fighting the takeover-the opponents this week won a speedup in court schedules.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington agreed to expedite an appeal in the lawsuit which was filed by the three Middle Eastern investors who are trying to buy control of the company.
District Court Judge Oliver Gasch earlier dismissed the suit, saying the three could not sue on behalf of other shareholders. The appeals court did not overturn Gasch's decision, but agreed to consider the appeal quickly.
Saul would not speculate on the outcome of the legal maneuvering, but commented, "We're very hopeful this will be concluded as soon as possible."
If all the legal tangles are ever unsnarled, "the board would have a legal obligation to consider" an offer by the Middle Eastern group by control of the company, Saul told shareholders.
But in a conversation with reporters and shareholders after the meeting, Saul indicted he thinks the company's stock is probably worth twice as much as the $15 a share that the Middle Eastern group has indicated it might offer.
Saul would not quote a price, but he commented, "I think that's conservative, very conservative" when shareholder Dave Petit suggested the offer should be for 1.5 times book value of the stock. The current book value is about $19, officials said.
Financial General's earnings have increased 51 percent in the past two years, President J. William Middendorf told shareholders, promising "savings of millions of dollars" through consolidation of services of Financial General banks in the Wasshington area.