Friday, April 18, 2003

Dods derides
rival banker as a
hostile ‘malihini’

A war of words erupts after
the head of CPB notes First
Hawaiian has a French owner

By Dave Segal

Clint Arnoldus may have made great strides in growing Central Pacific Bank, but as far as First Hawaiian Bank's Walter Dods is concerned, Arnoldus stepped over the line.

Dods, the chairman and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank, had nothing to say Wednesday after CPB Inc. made an unsolicited $285 million offer to buy rival City Bank.

But Dods was more than willing to talk yesterday after Arnoldus, CPB's chairman, president and CEO, touched a nerve with some references to First Hawaiian's French parent company, BNP Paribas.

"Normally, I don't comment on another bank's transactions, but it's kind of sad to see a malihini who's been in town for a year taking cheap shots at 2,000 local employees of our bank," Dods said.

Dods was upset about two comments Arnoldus made.

The first one quoted Arnoldus in a Wednesday news release saying that "there is immense value in having Hawaii's banking needs served by a stronger, local bank that is focused on our unique local market."

Then, in CPB's earnings conference call yesterday, Arnoldus said: "First Hawaiian, as you know, is now owned by a French parent. And that's not the most popular foreign ownership to have right now."

Dods said he is ready to meet Arnoldus in a verbal showdown.

"I was born and raised here -- I didn't just get off the boat from California and learn the shaka sign," he said, "so I'm amused to hear CPB's new chairman say other banks aren't local enough. If he really understood what 'local' means, he'd know local people don't make hostile attacks on honorable competitors. Any time he wants to debate in pidgin on 'local,' I'm available."

Arnoldus said it was unfortunate Dods took his comments personally.

"I certainly did not mean to say that the employees of First Hawaiian Bank are French and not local," Arnoldus said. "We have high regard for their employees, and we hope the community will focus on the merits of this merger and the benefits for Hawaii."

Dods said there was irony in Arnoldus' comments.

"(First Hawaiian Bank is) owned by shareholders all over the world, including many Americans and many First Hawaiian employees -- not owned by the French government," Dods said. "It's a little hypocritical for him to attack First Hawaiian about foreign ownership, since until recently CPB was controlled by Sumitomo Bank, a fine institution from Japan."

Central Pacific Bank
First Hawaiian Bank

E-mail to City Desk


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