President and CEO Leaves First Niagara

March 19, 2013 Updated Mar 19, 2013 at 11:31 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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March 19, 2013 Updated Mar 19, 2013 at 11:31 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) In a mutual decision, First Niagara Financial Group President and CEO John Koelmel has left the organization, effective immediately.

The Board of Directors for First Niagara made the announcement today at its regular meeting.

Gary M. Crosby, 59, will take Koelmel's place as President and CEO on an interim basis, while a search for a permanent successor begins. A special committee has been formed to consider applicants from inside and outside the organization.

“John Koelmel has guided the company’s transformation from a local thrift to a leading northeast banking franchise, and led First Niagara during a period of difficult economic conditions and financial industry turmoil,” Chairman of the Board, G. Thomas Bowers, said. “The Board and I are grateful to John for his leadership through this critical period in our history and for positioning us so that we can focus on enhancing shareholder value through continuing organic growth and the efficient operation of the business we have today. We are committed to maintaining our position as a leading independent banking organization with a deep-seated focus on service to our customers and communities and to building value for our shareholders.”

Mr. Koelmel said, “I highly value the opportunity to have driven First Niagara’s rapid growth over the last six years and to position it as one of the top regional banking franchises in the Northeast. And I thank all 6,000 of my teammates for their tremendous support. I agree with the Board that it’s in the best interests of the organization under present circumstances to move forward with new leadership.”

Crosby assumes the role of interim President and CEO from his previous positions as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative and Operating Officer.