Frontier Ousts Founder's Son Over Spring Break as Rescue Deadline Looms

Frontier Financial Corp., the Washington state lender facing an April 15 deadline to find new capital or a buyer, ousted the son of its founder as president of the bank unit after a dispute over a spring break vacation.

John J. Dickson resigned "immediately" as a director of Frontier March 30 after being fired from the president's job the previous day, saying he couldn't continue "in the face of this dismissal," according to a copy of his resignation filed today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"My termination followed your improper demand that I refrain from exercising my employment right to earned vacation time for a family vacation during my children's Spring Break starting on March 31, 2010," Dickson wrote. "I had earlier given you timely notification of my vacation schedule."

Frontier said last month that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had ordered the Everett, Washington-based lender to bolster its balance sheet or sell itself by the middle of April "due to the bank's critically undercapitalized status," the lender said in a statement. A takeover bid last July led by Warren Lichtenstein, the New York hedge fund manager, broke down in October after failing to get regulatory approval.

A message left for Frontier Chief Executive Officer Patrick Fahey wasn't immediately returned before normal business hours.

Son of Founder

Dickson's father Robert founded the bank in 1978, according to an article on the Everett HeraldNet Web site. Robert Dickson stepped down in December 2008, when the bank said that John Dickson would "transition" from president and CEO of the corporation to president of the Frontier Bank unit, according to a bank statement. Dickson's age was listed as 48 in Frontier's March 2009 proxy statement.

Frontier has about 50 offices in Washington and Oregon that reported deposits of about $3.12 billion as of Dec. 31. The bank hasn't made money since 2007, with combined losses of almost $350 million in the past two years. The stock dropped 84 percent in the past 12 months through yesterday.

The bank's shares fell 4 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $1.91 at 9:44 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

To contact the reporter on this story: Linda Shen in New York at lshen21@bloomberg.net

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