Bankwell Financial Group's Peyton Patterson, whose personal financial problems made recent headlines, has resigned from her positions as chief executive officer, president and board member, the company announced Friday.
The New Canaan resident has been hit with a series of civil lawsuits and was recently ordered to pay nearly $400,000 to two private country clubs and a credit card company after the three successfully sued her for outstanding debt, according to the state Department of Justice website.
"After careful consideration and discussions with the board, I have decided it is in the best interests of the company to resign from my positions," Patterson said in a news release. "I am incredibly proud of what we achieved during my time at Bankwell and did not want my personal matters to overshadow the accomplishments and hard work of our team. I am certain the company's comprehensive product offerings, strong financial position and experienced leadership will ensure its continued success."
Her resignation is effective immediately.
Bankwell Chairman Blake Drexler has been appointed executive chairman by the Board of Directors and will assume Patterson's responsibilities at the New Canaan-based financial group, according to a news release.
The board has formed a search committee to find a new chief executive officer and will consider internal and outside candidates for the job, the release states. Once the search is complete, Drexler will return to his role of non-executive chairman, according to the statement.
Patterson joined Bankwell as a strategic officer in spring 2012. She had just engineered the $1.5 billion sale of New Haven-based NewAlliance Bank and months later became Bankwell's CEO and president. During Patterson's tenure over the last year and a half, Bankwell acquired The Wilton Bank, launched new wealth and cash management services and, most recently, went public.
"I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Peyton for her significant contributions to the company during her tenure," Drexler said in the release. "Peyton's leadership and dedication was a key component of our successful initial public offering, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors. One of her greatest legacies is the strong, experienced executive team she helped assemble.
"This will allow for a smooth transition of responsibilities without any disruptions to the business," he continued. "I am confident the depth of our executive team, strong financial position and talented employees will ensure Bankwell continues on its upward trajectory."
Bankwell Financial Group, which opened 12 years ago, went public May 15 with a $48.6 million initial public offering. The price per share has remained steady since then and just slightly below the $18 initial offering, according to NASDAQ.
The company has two banks each in New Canaan and Fairfield, one in Stamford, one in Wilton, as well as a loan-processing facility in Bridgeport.
According to court records, American Express filed a suit against Patterson July 2013 for more than $350,000; Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club, of Branford, sued her for more than $10,000 in October; and Orange's Race Brook Country Club sued her for nearly $27,000 in September.
In each of the three lawsuits, the New Canaan resident was ordered to make weekly payments of $35. With all orders combined, including attorney's fees and interest, she owes $392,754, court records show.
Diane Knetzger, Bankwell's senior vice president and director of marketing, said in June that the outstanding bills from the two clubs were from corporate memberships that were maintained by Patterson's previous employer, NewAlliance Bank, and that they should have expired after the company was sold to First Niagara in 2011. Knetzger said she believes there was "an oversight" during the merger.
As for the American Express charges, Knetzger said Patterson has not used the card in many years and the debt "relates to a private family matter."
Patterson also was sued by the Town of Madison, where she owns a house and failed to pay $22,804 in property taxes, including interest and fees, according to Alma Carroll, Madison's tax collector. Those taxes were due in July 2012 and January and July 2013, according to Carroll. The lawsuit was withdrawn in September, however, after Patterson paid the delinquent taxes in full.
Patterson bought the Madison property with her ex-husband in 2002. According to Curbed.com, the Colonial house was rehabilitated in the 1950s by famous architect Philip Johnson, who also designed New Canaan's Glass House. The 6-acre property is on sale for $1,950,000, according to Zillow.com.
Patterson also owes back taxes on her Clearview Lane property in New Canaan. As of Aug. 8, she owes the town $39,424 for tax bills that were due July 1, 2013, and Jan. 1, 2014, according to the town's website. Patterson has another $21,902 bill for the property, which was due last month, town records show.
On top of the lawsuits, the Hartford Business Journal reported June 16 that Patterson had not paid North Haven-based Granite Communications for a $1,008 phone system installed in her New Canaan home in January 2013. Granite Communications' President Gregg Haughton said Friday that he finally received a check from her July 23.
As CEO of NewAlliance Bank, Patterson was named the "Second Most Powerful Woman in Banking" by U.S. Banker magazine in 2008.
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