Public officials see silver lining in Mellon acquisition

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Under most circumstances, losing another corporate headquarters as well as a name that has been as synonymous with the city is not the kind of news to which most politicians would be giving a thumbs up.


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Yet Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato yesterday did as much, saying the Bank of New York purchase of Mellon Financial Corp. could end up paying dividends for the region.

While the two companies plan to eliminate about 3,900 jobs through the merger, with perhaps 600 of those coming from Pittsburgh, Mellon Chief Executive Officer Robert P. Kelly said the transaction eventually could create 1,000 to 2,000 local jobs. He also said Mellon would continue to be highly involved in Pittsburgh and that its Downtown buildings will keep their Mellon signs.

"Early indications are that perhaps it is a good thing for this region," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "At the end of the day, we may be able to add jobs."

Mr. Onorato said he and Mr. Ravenstahl plan to meet with top Mellon officials within the next 10 days to discuss the purchase and gauge its impact.

Like Mr. Ravenstahl, his early reaction was positive. "The initial reports that we're getting is that this could be a thousand or so new jobs to the region, that sounds good," Mr. Onorato said.

Gov. Ed Rendell also was "fairly encouraged" by the purchase, given the possible creation of up to 2,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh area, spokeswoman Kate Philips said.

One who does not share their optimism is county council President Rich Fitzgerald. He said that it is generally the company doing the buying that retains the jobs at the expense of the one being bought.

He believes the merger ultimately will prove to be a bad deal, one that will cost Pittsburgh countless jobs.

"There's no sugarcoating this. This is not a good day for the region," he said.

However, former county chief executive Jim Roddey said the outcome could have been far worse, noting that Mellon has been a potential takeover target for many years.

At least this deal keeps a sizable presence in the region -- a presence that, if the Mellon and the Bank of New York are to be believed -- actually will grow. "The downside is we're losing another Fortune 500 headquarters,'' Mr. Roddey said.

While Pittsburgh is losing a corporate headquarters, City Council President Doug Shields urged local and state political leaders to campaign to get the merged company to locate as many operations as possible here.

He said Pittsburgh could be a perfect candidate for growth given its lower cost of living than New York and the availability of office space -- attributes that both Mr. Kelly and Bank of New York CEO Thomas R. Renyi cited yesterday as reasons Pittsburgh will grow.

Mr. Kelly noted the company's cash management and stock transfer businesses will both be based here, and Pittsburgh-based operations will account for $1 billion to $1.2 billion of revenue. "I see Pittsburgh as a very important part of our strategic long-term puzzle for this new company," he said.

Still, the passing of the Mellon name bears reflection, said state Rep. Jake Wheatley.

"It's a sad day when we lose such a prestigious name so synonymous with our region," the Hill District Democrat said.


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262. Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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