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Selmon joins Naples bank board

Lee Roy Selmon is joining the board of First National Bankshares of Florida, a move that links the newly created Naples bank to one of the highest-profile figures in Tampa Bay area sports and business.

The appointment comes two weeks after the president of the St. Petersburg NAACP challenged bay area banks to add an African-American to their boards. But First National chief executive Gary Tice said that he was unaware of the challenge and that negotiations to add Selmon to give the bank an eight-member board had been under way for three months.

The Selmon appointment also comes a little more than a week after the 49-year-old former football great shocked the University of South Florida athletic department by asking for a six-week sabbatical because of what was described only as a private health matter. Selmon indicated that it is "highly unlikely" he will return to his post as the university's athletic director, but the university anticipates he will continue to be involved in some way.

Selmon could not be reached for comment Friday, but bank executives said he indicated that his health issues would not interfere with the job.

Tice estimated that the new director's duties would require about one day a month, and he left it up to Selmon to weigh his ability to handle it while on sabbatical.

"That's why we were in negotiations for three months," he said. "We wanted to make sure . . . that this would not put a significant amount of stress on him. . . . He made the decision he wanted to join our board."

The board of First National, a recent spinoff of F.N.B. Corp., approved the appointment this week. It planned to announce the news next week but moved up its release to Friday after learning that the St. Petersburg Times was writing a story.

Selmon is best known as a six-time NFL Pro Bowler and the only former Tampa Bay Buccaneer enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. He also is a restaurateur in partnership with Outback Steakhouse. Much of his post-NFL experience, however, has been in banking.

Before joining USF in 1993, Selmon worked in banking for more than 10 years, most recently in Tampa as the former Barnett Banks' vice president for community relations. He was elected to Barnett's board as a director in 1993, five years before Barnett was acquired by what is now Bank of America. Before that, he was a vice president at Tampa's First Florida Bank before it was acquired in late 1992 by Barnett.

At First National, he will serve as a director on both the corporate board and its banking subsidiary, as well as sit on the bank's compensation committee. According to the March 2003 proxy for F.N.B., each nonemployee director last year was paid an annual retainer of $15,000, plus $2,000 for each monthly board meeting attended. Nonemployee directors who serve on committees were compensated at rates ranging from $200 to $1,000 per meeting attended.

Darryl Rouson, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, applauded the appointment as a move in the right direction.

"I can only hope that banks in St. Petersburg feel the urgency to follow suit," he said.

Rouson challenged banks to recruit minority board members in a speech Jan. 8 to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club. He said he was inspired by an NAACP survey of area black professionals that could not find anyone serving in such a capacity.

Tice acknowledged a desire to recruit a minority board member but not because of any pressure.

"We've been looking almost a year and a half in Tampa for the right person that we felt would add a significant contribution to our Tampa market," he said.

First National, the biggest bank based on the west coast of Florida, was created this month as a spinoff of F.N.B. Corp. As part of the split, F.N.B. moved its headquarters from Naples to its original home in Hermitage, Pa.

First National has 59 branches and $3.8-billion in assets.

_ Jeff Harrington can be reached at harringtonsptimes.com or (813) 226-3407.

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