The Real Deal New York

M&T Bank’s CEO Bob Wilmers dies at 83

Contrarian banker grew lender from struggling institution to powerhouse
December 18, 2017 09:30AM

Robert Wilmers (Credit: M&T Bank)

Bob Wilmers, who took M&T Bank from a struggling lender in Buffalo to a regional powerhouse with $120 billion in assets, died Saturday night. He was 83.

Robert Brady, the former CEO of aerospace company Moog Inc., will take over as chairman of the Buffalo-based bank, the Wall Street Journal reported. M&T’s three vice chairmen – Richard Gold, René Jones and Kevin Pearson – will run day-to-day operations.

Wilmers, who controlled 6 percent of M&T, was known as a contrarian. The billionaire often rode a beaten-down bike with mismatched tires to his New York City office, and called M&T a community bank even as it expanded to one of the largest financial firms in the country through two dozen acquisitions.

He criticized Wall Street greed as well as government overreach.

“Trading brings out the worst in humanity,” he said in an interview earlier this year.

M&T has been one of the most active lenders in New York City in recent years. In 2016, the bank issuing more than $2 billion in commercial real estate loans on New York City property, according to PropertyShark.

Warren Buffett, a friend and fellow M&T investor, called Wilmers “a remarkable banker, an even more remarkable citizen and a wonderful friend.”

Wilmers was born to a well-off family in 1934 and grew up in New York and Europe, ending up at M&T almost by chance. In the early 1980s, he recognized the bank’s share were falling after a reach into international lending, and started buying them up. In 1983, he convinced the board to make him CEO, and brought the company from $2 billion in assets with 51 branches to 783 branches across the eastern U.S. [WSJ] Rich Bockmann