Three of the area's wealthiest business executives are considering making a major investment in John Hanson Savings & Loan, which would help the thrift raise the funds needed to qualify for final approvals for federal deposit insurance.
The Prince George's County savings and loan, Maryland's third-largest privately insured lending institution, is negotiating with Israel Cohen, chairman of the board of Giant Food Inc., and developers Theodore N. Lerner and Albert "Sonny" Abramson, to become major shareholders. Those discussions are just one of several options John Hanson is exploring as possible strategies to meet federal deposit insurance requirements, according to Robin C. Staley, the thrift's spokesperson.
"This is among the many options that we are investigating to meet the 5 percent net worth requirement," said Staley. "There are several different avenues we are pursuing," she said, adding that she did not know any details of the negotiations.
Charles A. Dukes Jr., chairman of the board of John Hanson, said he would not comment on the matter because the thrift does "not have a firm agreement."
Giant Food spokesman Barry Scher said yesterday "This is a personal matter, and there is no further comment at this time." Lerner and Abramson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
John Hanson, which has assets of about $650 million, received conditional approval for federal insurance from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board two weeks ago but must meet a federal "net worth" requirement to obtain full approval. The net-worth rule requires a savings and loan to keep 5 percent of its net worth in readily available assets.
The potential investors reportedly are considering investing about $20 million in John Hanson and met with representatives of John Hanson two days ago -- on the eve of a meeting of John Hanson's 400 shareholders -- to iron out some technical difficulties, according to The Prince George's Journal.
Lerner, who developed and owns Landover Mall, Wheaton Plaza, White Flint Mall and the Tysons Corner shopping centers, also has been Abramson's partner on other ventures. Lerner, of Chevy Chase, also recently bought a controlling interest in the 3,000-unit Springhill Lake garden apartments in Greenbelt and owns an interest in Greenbelt's Capital Office Park.
Abramson, an investor and land developer who controls a 200-acre parcel at Route 202 and the Beltway across from the Inglewood Business Park in Prince George's County, also has development interests in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County.
John Hanson has been in good financial health in recent years. Net income for fiscal 1984 was $9.6 million, up from $3.7 million in 1983. In fiscal 1982 -- a bad year for the savings and loan industry -- John Hanson lost $1.09 million, its only loss in 25 years. As of the end of April, profits for fiscal 1985 were about $5 million.
Withdrawals at John Hanson have been limited to $1,000 per account per month ever since Gov. Harry Hughes froze withdrawals at the state's thrifts May 14 after problems at two Baltimore savings and loans started runs on deposits throughout the state. Gaining federal insurance would remove that limit.