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New Head of Family S&L Has History of Tangled Finances : Despite Success of Takeover, Oliver Trigg Has Liens on His Home and Faces Creditor Suits, Mainly Because of Past Business Failures

October 06, 1987|DENISE GELLENE | Times Staff Writer

Oliver A. Trigg Jr. was on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 4, savoring the greatest coup of his short career: his $1.24-million takeover of Family Savings & Loan, the nation's fourth-largest black-owned thrift.

As Trigg celebrated his success, events 2,675 miles away in Los Angeles cast a shadow over his day in the sun. On that day, Trigg missed a federal court hearing with his biggest creditor, who plans to try to seize Trigg's Family Savings stock unless the banker settles a 2-year-old claim for $180,000.

Clearly, Trigg is no ordinary banker. In interviews with friends, business associates and creditors, Trigg emerges as an enigma: a savvy and apparently wealthy entrepreneur who, despite his success, has six liens totaling $42,800 on his home and faces lawsuits from other creditors who say they are owed at least $62,000 more.

Most of the 36-year-old Trigg's debts stem from what turned out to be two disastrous business ventures that he started in the early to mid-1980s. In a recent interview, Trigg attributed those failures to a youthful willingness "to try anything" and said he fully intends to pay off all his debts.

Now it appears that Trigg is bringing his entrepreneurial approach to Family Savings, the 39-year-old Crenshaw district thrift with a reputation as a conservative lender. For his $1.24 million, Trigg bought 51% of Family Savings.

During the last four months, an Inglewood apartment builder who is a friend and business associate of Trigg's received two loans of $2.5 million or more from Family Savings. According to information obtained from public documents and in interviews, the loans were part of a complicated transaction that appears to have turned into a bonanza for Trigg.

Large Loan for S&L

The transaction involved undeveloped land in Whittier that Trigg, apparently for no money down, bought for about $2.7 million last December from his friend Jack R. Urich, the millionaire chairman of an oil company named UCO Inc. Trigg sold the land six months later, Family Savings legal counsel Wayne C. Collett said, for about $5 million--nearly double what he paid--to another friend, developer Willie A. Powell. Powell financed the purchase in part with a $2.5-million loan from Family Savings, according to Collett.

It is a very large loan for a thrift the size of Family Savings. The $2.5 million represents a large proportion of Family Savings' capital, the amount of money it has on hand to cover bad loans. On March 31, the most recent date for which official figures are available, Family Savings had $4.5 million in capital.

In the interview, Trigg insisted that he was not taking any unusual risks at Family Savings. Trigg said he takes more risks with his own money than with the thrift's money and that, even with his personal investments, he has "calmed down."

Thrift industry experts say that Family Savings' financial condition has improved under Trigg's direction. Since he became chairman of Family Savings in May of last year, its profits are up and he has reduced the S&L's number of bad loans by selling foreclosed properties. He has increased the number of loan officers to 13 from three and put them on commission to encourage them to make more loans.

Stays Close to Children

Friends interviewed in recent weeks say Trigg is bright, ambitious and obsessed with making money. "No one thinks in as many zeroes as he does," said Channing Johnson, a Los Angeles lawyer who has known Trigg for more than 10 years.

Trigg said his real estate and stock investments, which he will not specify, have made him rich. His office at Family Savings is equipped with two personal computers that constantly monitor his hand-picked portfolio of 40 stocks. Trigg said the machines are programed to signal him with a beep when it is time for him to sell his stocks for a profit.

Yet friends say he takes time out for his three children. Associates say it is not unusual for Trigg to take his youngest, a 2-year-old daughter, to business meetings when a baby sitter is not available. And he was upset last month when a thrift association dinner kept him from a PTA meeting at his son's school. Friends admire the young banker for making so much time available for his children, especially since the tragic death of his 31-year-old wife from breast cancer last Oct. 31, just two months after the disease was diagnosed.

He likes to do things his way. When Los Angeles theater owner Ernest Sims met Trigg for a business lunch, he was surprised to see the banker emerge from his jet black Ferrari dressed in jeans. The car's license plate proclaims: FNCL WIZ. "He's not your typical banker," Sims said.

Trigg is a relative newcomer to banking. He got his start at Xerox, where he went to work as a financial analyst after getting a bachelor's degree from UCLA and an MBA degree from Harvard University in 1975. Francis L. Price, an Orange County consultant who became close to Trigg while the two men worked at Xerox, said Trigg wanted to start his own company.

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