As Maryland legislators debated the Chase Manhattan Corp. acquisition of three state savings and loans last month, they joked that the New York banking giant had sent their vice president on a crash Berlitz course to get a southern drawl before he arrived in Annapolis.
That's because they had expected a slick, fast-talking New Yorker. They got Stanley T. Burns, a soft-spoken Texan, instead.
Burns, president of the new 13-branch Chase Bank of Maryland, comes with experience in an assortment of Chase executive positions and a reputation as a man who stays calm and determined in the midst of a storm.
Burns described himself yesterday almost as a bystander in the negotiations -- which ended with a stormy special session of the state legislature last month. "I was more concerned about getting the bank open than trying to sort out the political side of it," he said. "I was there more as an observer and a testifier."
"He has a good deal of understanding of his industry, and he's a good negotiator -- obviously," said state Sen. Dennis F. Rasmussen, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "Anyone who can negotiate full-service banking privileges for an out-of-state bank . . . you can speak very highly of their ability."
One savings and loan official involved in the negotiations described Burns as "unflappable" but said that, when Gov. Harry Hughes and Economic and Community Development Secretary Thomas Maddux took off for a 10-day trip to Europe in the midst of the negotiations before the legislature met, "Burns flapped."
Some legislators said it was easy for Burns to keep cool during the session because Chase had the upper hand. Indeed, as Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg (D-Baltimore County) led some vigorous last-minute resistance to a $25 million payment by the state to Chase to encourage it to take over the ailing thrifts, Burns returned briefly to his home in New York and was later sighted in a polo shirt window-shopping on Annapolis' Main Street.
Even in the thick of the confrontation, Steinberg said, Burns "always left the lines of communication open. So I really respected his whole attitude."
"I really did believe from that, from the beginning, it was going to work," Burns said yesterday. "We had a lot of ups and downs, but every down was followed pretty quickly by an up."
Several people who have watched Burns work in Annapolis praised him for not acting superior to the lawmakers with whom he dealt. "He came across as very sophisticated, but not in an arrogant way," Rasmussen said.
Maxine Adler, a Baltimore lawyer who works as Chase's lobbyist in Annapolis, said one of Burns' assets is an incredibly organized mind that allowed him to pull out the right answer for legislators. "He can take a very complex deal and translate it for them in as many ways he has to, until he has explained it. He has the patience to do that."
Burns' accent comes naturally. Born in Temple, Tex., in 1944, Burns attended Duke University in North Carolina and graduated in 1966. He started work with Chase the same year.
Since then, Burns has headed the bank's credit development program and served as division executive of the real estate department and of the lending department's financial analysis unit. He also has worked for the corporate banking department and was secretary of the bank's credit policy committee.
Before being dispatched five months ago to begin work on the Maryland savings and loan takeovers, he was a Chase vice president and executive for the commercial sector. Robert Douglass, vice chairman of national banking for Chase, called Burns the "key player" in the savings and loans takeover, making him "ideally qualified" to head up the new Chase facility that resulted.
Burns said he intends to stay with his job for awhile. He plans to move his wife Christa and three young children to Maryland. "We're coming down to settle in for awhile," he said.