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Sterling Financial paying millions to new chairman

Les Biller
Les Biller

Most board members have resigned

New Sterling Financial Corp. Chairman Les Biller was paid $1.5 million to accept the position, and will receive a total $4.5 million by Dec. 31, 2012, unless he resigns.

Biller’s compensation was contained in a Monday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing also disclosed the resignation of all but four members of the Sterling board of directors following completion Thursday of a $730 million recapitalization.

The appointment of Biller, a former vice chairman of Wells Fargo, helped attract private investors who participated in the recapitalization. According to the letter offering Biller the chairman’s job, he invested between $4 million and $7 million of his own money in Sterling.

Biller succeeds William “Ike” Eisenhart, who became chairman when Sterling co-founder Harold Gilkey was forced out last October by regulators.

Eisenhart remains on the board along with other holdovers Ellen Boyer, Michael Reuling and Greg Seibly, Sterling’s chief executive officer.

In addition to Biller, the board added David Coulter, representing Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Scott Jaeckel, representing Warburg Pincus Private Equity X, L.P.

The private equity investment firms each invested $171 million in the Sterling recapitalization.

Creigh Agnew, Katherine Anderson, Ned Barnes, Rodney Barnett, Thomas Fugate and Kermit Houser resigned, as did Marcus Lampros, Robert Larrabee, Dianne Spires, William Wrigglesworth and William Zuppe, Sterling’s other co-founder.

Directors in 2009 received cash compensation of $48,000 to $57,597, plus stock awards.