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Hale retires from First Mariner

Edwin F. Hale Sr. has retired as chairman and chief executive officer of First Mariner Bancorp, the struggling company announced Friday.

Hale’s retirement was effective Thursday. The executive had said he would step down if First Mariner’s deal with New York investment Firm Priam Capital was successful.

“While it is difficult to leave 1st Mariner, the time is right,” Hale, 65, said in a statement. “I am proud of the commitment to community banking 1st Mariner has embraced and   the hundreds of financial services jobs the company has created in the Baltimore metropolitan area.”

Capt. Michael R. Watson will be the interim, non-executive chairman of the bank. Watson has been on the First Mariner board since 1998 and is president of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association. He is also a past chairman of the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Mark Keidel, the bank’s chief operating officer and president, will take over as CEO on an interim basis.

First Mariner also said Friday that Jack E. Steil, former president of Wilmington Trust’s Mid-Atlantic Region, and Robert D. Kunisch Jr., former president of Wilmington Trust FSB Maryland, had been advising its board of directors since July. Steil and Kunisch are veterans of the former Mercantile Bankshares Corp.

Hale was unavailable for comment on Friday. Priam Capital Managing Director Howard Feinglass did not return calls for comment.

First Mariner been beset with capital concerns and has been operating in the red for several quarters. A deal announced in April would have seen Priam invest $36.4 million in First Mariner, but only after the bank raised $123 million in new capital. The deal included the provision for a management change that called for Hale to step down.

Friday’s announcement made no mention of the progress toward meeting the capital goal. According to a filing with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., First Mariner Bank’s total bank equity capital at the end of September was $36.1 million, compared to $98.7 million at the corresponding point in 2010. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, First Mariner reported a $7.9 million loss as well as declines in total loans and total assets.

First Mariner stock has been trading on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board since being delisted from Nasdaq this year for failing to trade above $1 for an extended period of time. At 11:15 a.m. on Friday, shares of the company were trading for 5 cents and the company had a market cap of $963,000.

Hale gave an exclusive interview to The Daily Record in June. Watch the video here: