During nearly two weeks of “As Wachovia Turns,” the company's shareholders had experienced a range of emotions fit for a soap opera: Shock. Anger. Disappointment. Confusion. Relief.
But now that Wells Fargo is moving forward with its deal to buy the Charlotte bank for $5.43 per share as of Thursday, another word came to mind, at least for investor Mark Beck:
“I have a great sense of loss for Charlotte,” said Beck, a Charlotte businessman whose Wachovia stockholder Web site, wachoviavoteno.com, has attracted thousands of visits since it launched last week. “And as a shareholder, I think the company is worth more. But it's likely what we're going to get.”
Shareholders said Thursday they were glad Citigroup would no longer fight for its widely criticized offer to buy most of Wachovia for $1 a share. And they were glad to gain some sense of resolution. However, the news also spelled the end of some shareholders' hope that Wachovia could remain independent.
“It's the best of a bad world,” said John Burke, a Salisbury retiree who estimates that he's lost “in the five figures, and not in the low five figures,” on his Wachovia stock.
Ever since the Citi-Wachovia deal was first announced, he said, he's felt like he had a “great big iron ball” in his stomach. He didn't know what to do or how to proceed. Now, there's a bit more clarity, but he's still resigned to the fact that his money is gone and won't be coming back – something for which he blames Wachovia's board of directors and former CEO Ken Thompson.
“All of us shareholders have already taken a big bath,” he said. “The question is, how big is it going to be? … I'm now trying to salvage pennies instead of dollars.”
Even so, he said he feels even worse for Wachovia employees, many of whom had company stock in their retirement accounts.
Beck, for his part, is disappointed that local leaders – elected and unelected – didn't do more to fight for Wachovia.
Though he's unsure of how he'll vote on the Wells deal, he believes it will go through; it's hard to see, he said, how a majority of shareholders would vote against it given the uncertainty of what would happen if the bank was left on its own.
The saga, he said, is probably mostly over. But then again, if the drama thus far is any indication, you never know.
“This is the story that you think is dead and has nine lives,” Beck said. “It might come back tomorrow or Saturday or sometime … Anything can happen.”