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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sterling revamps executive lineup

Co-founder, bank’s chairwoman are out

Sterling Financial Corp. on Wednesday announced the appointment of a new executive team and the departures of longtime Chairman Harold Gilkey and Heidi Stanley, chairwoman of the subsidiary Sterling Savings Bank.

The board of directors named Director William Eisenhart as acting, nonexecutive chairman. J. Gregory Seibly was named acting president and chief executive officer, and Ezra Eckhardt was named acting chief operating officer.

In a statement by Eisenhart released late Wednesday afternoon, the bank said the changes took effect immediately.

Sterling, with $12.4 billion in assets, is the largest bank based in Washington. It has struggled with steep losses, particularly on real estate loans. In August, the company announced it would defer interest payments on notes and preferred stock, triggering a sell-off of its common shares that dropped the price 20 percent, to $2.42. The shares closed Wednesday at $1.66.

“The board is committed to taking the actions necessary to respond to the challenges that face Sterling,” Eisenhart said Wednesday. “The board is bringing in a new generation of management to lead the efforts to strengthen Sterling’s capital and liquidity positions.”

Gilkey, 70, co-founded Sterling in 1983 and had been its chairman since. He was also corporate CEO and president, director of Sterling Bank and CEO of Golf Savings Bank, another Sterling holding.

Stanley, 53, joined the bank in 1985. She became its CEO in 2008 and chairwoman earlier this year.

Eisenhart credited both for building a franchise that expanded from one branch in Spokane to 175 in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and California.

“Harold did what many banking executives strive to do but few accomplish,” he said. “Heidi played a central role in the growth of Sterling,” in the process building its corps of experienced bankers.

Seibly, 46, also takes over as acting CEO of the bank and Golf Savings Bank.

Eckhardt, 39, will be Sterling Bank’s acting president.

Donn Costa, 47, becomes acting president of Golf.

The appointments will become permanent when approved by the bank’s regulators, the statement said.