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Founders Bank President Resigns; Owner Change a Factor


Founders National Bank President Carlton Jenkins has resigned from Southern California's only African American-owned commercial bank, in a move he acknowledged is linked to the Los Angeles institution's purchase by a star-studded ownership team last year.

Jenkins' sudden departure from the Crenshaw District bank earlier this month, coupled with bank officials' refusal to comment on the management shake-up, had fueled speculation that Jenkins had clashed with majority stakeholders led by recording industry executive Jheryl Busby.

Reached at his home Monday, the 44-year-old Jenkins confirmed that he left Founders on Oct. 1 to "pursue other interests." He described his departure as "amicable" but acknowledged that the ownership change was a factor.

"I resigned and it was time," said Jenkins, who helped found the bank in the early '90s and who remains a minority shareholder. "Changes in ownership do occasionally lend themselves to that."

John Kelly, a board member, shareholder and former president of Founders, has assumed Jenkins' former post as president. The Maryland resident says he's heading the bank on an "interim" basis, but he did not rule out the possibility that his appointment could become permanent.

"Whatever needs to be done, I'm prepared to do," said Kelly, 58. "I've had a long-standing involvement and interest in Founders."

Formed in 1991, Founders was controlled by Jenkins' grandfather Leon Garr until last spring, when the septuagenarian sold his majority stake for $3 million to a celebrity-filled roster consisting of Busby, Laker luminary Earvin "Magic" Johnson and recording star Janet Jackson.

At the time, Jenkins described the ownership troika as an "exciting threesome" whose involvement with Founders would strengthen the black-owned institution and raise its profile in the community. But sources familiar with the situation said friction between the new guard and old led to Jenkins' sudden, unannounced departure this month.

"I think it had more to do with personality than any disagreements over the direction of the institution," the source said. "It just came to a point where it was time for them to part ways."

None of the three--Busby, Johnson or Jackson--could be reached for comment.

Kelly said he was unaware of any major conflict between Jenkins and the new owners and he denied that Jenkins had been forced out.

"I can't speak at all for Carlton . . . but I do know how demanding running a bank can be," he said. "It doesn't surprise me that after years someone might want to take a breather and do something else."

Headquartered on Martin Luther Boulevard, Founders has three other branches, in Compton, South-Central and the USC area. It boasts assets of $112.5 million.

Jenkins has been active in charities and civic organizations. Last month, the state Senate approved his appointment to the State Board of Education.

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