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PEOPLE : Founder of J. M. Peters Co. Extends Pact

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Apparently moving to protect his interest in the company he founded, sold and is now trying to buy back, developer James M. Peters has signed a one-year extension of his employment agreement with J. M. Peters Co., officials of the large Southland residential development firm said Wednesday.

The company said Peters’ new agreement calls for him to remain as chairman and chief executive through Feb. 28, 1991.

Terms of the pact are “substantially the same terms as the agreement it replaces,” the announcement said, “except that Mr. Peters could earn a larger bonus, depending on the company’s fiscal year results.”

Peters’ bonus for the fiscal year ended Feb. 28 totaled nearly $1 million, in addition to a base salary of $414,000.

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Peters was not available for comment Wednesday, and a company spokesman declined to discuss the terms of the new employment agreement or the status of Peters’ negotiations to buy back the 87% of the company owned by San Jacinto Savings in Houston.

But the company said in March that Peters has informed officials at San Jacinto that he is interested in acquiring the S&L;'s stake in J. M. Peters Co.

Several analysts said then that the beleaguered thrift, which recently reported that it was insolvent, was asking $14 a share but would settle for $12 a share--or $144 million--for its 12 million shares of the Peters company. Peters reportedly was offering $10 a share, or $120 million.

Peters, 54, sold the company to San Jacinto Savings in 1985 for about $40 million. In 1987, San Jacinto raised $10.5 million by selling 13% of the company in a public stock offering.

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Peters had been under contract to remain as J. M. Peters chairman and chief executive until early 1992 but had the option to unilaterally cancel the agreement this year.

He exercised that option, but instead of walking away from the company he founded in 1975, Peters entered into negotiations to buy it. At the same time, he opened up talks on a new, short-term employment pact.

Although J. M. Peters Co. is a profitable builder, specializing in luxury homes priced in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, San Jacinto has been trying to sell it for several years as part of a plan to rid itself of all but its core assets.

The company is so closely linked with Peters, said Barbara Allen, of Kidder, Peabody & Co., that his presence increases its value to any potential purchaser. Because Peters has options to buy 600,000 shares at $6 per share, he would stand to make $3.6 million if someone bought the company at $12 per share.

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And if Peters is serious about reacquiring the firm, she said, it would make little sense for him to walk away and continue negotiating as an outsider while someone else runs the operation.


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