The publicly traded Royal Bancshares of Pennsylvania — founded, owned and operated by the Philadelphia-area Tabas family — has announced it will be acquired by Bryn Mawr Bank Corp., parent of the Bryn Mawr Trust Co., for $127 million. The acquisition includes the company’s Royal Bank America branches, headquartered in Narberth.
According to Royal Bank Chairman Robert Tabas, his late father, Daniel Tabas, started the bank in 1980 with the goal of serving the community. Royal’s personal service and regional boosterism turned out to be a fruitful combination, and Royal Bank America ultimately grew into a 13-branch network stretching from Berks County to South Jersey.
The family also owned and operated a number of hotels, many of which they still own, including the Hilton on City Line, Homewood Suites on City Line, the Hilton Home2 in Center City, and a Hyatt and a Sheraton in Valley Forge.
Over the years, the Tabas family’s success translated into regional philanthropy, including endowments of two Jewish Federation Housing buildings as well as a building at Wills Eye Hospital. They have a long association with Adath Israel synagogue in Merion Station.
Though the Tabas name is synonymous with Royal Bank, Robert Tabas, who’s been bank chairman for 10 years, said the merger will not change things dramatically for the family.
“As the company had evolved over the years and post-recession, when so many financial institutions had a hard time, we sort of transitioned to a more independently managed and governed company,” Tabas said of the family’s role, adding that they haven’t been intimately involved in day-to-day operations for four years now. “While the family was a big part of the ownership, it really had become a public company, professionally managed and professionally governed.”
This merger, Tabas said, is all about doing what’s best for the shareholders given the changing nature of banking needs. In today’s environment, Tabas said, the trend is moving toward “bigger is better,” and Bryn Mawr Trust, he noted, has more to offer, like investment management and insurance services.
Business analysts like the diversity of businesses Bryn Mawr has, Tabas said, because variety suggests a more robust ability to withstand economic ups and downs.
“It’ll still be a local company,” he said of the post-merger bank, “but it’ll have a lot more services and products.”
The Tabas family members connected to Royal Bank are all excited about this new chapter, Tabas said.
“Everybody’s pleased to be involved with the new company. We’re working hard to retain as many people as we can; the plan is to keep most of our branch offices, I understand, though I’m sure there will be some consolidation.”
It was important to Tabas that Bryn Mawr Trust is local and, he said, “they do good things in the community.”
It’s a community that Tabas has invested a lot in.
“My family is still here, we’re still very involved and committed,” he said. With all the hotel ownership, “we’re still involved with providing goods and services and jobs.”
On a personal level, he’ll bring more energy to his work with Federation Housing. Giving shelter to people is, after all, a family tradition.
“Back in the ’70s, my grandfather Samuel Tabas was interested in senior living communities. He had a dream to build one,” said Tabas. “He was never able to get his dream built, but after he passed away, my father was instrumental in supporting and getting built the first [Jewish] Federation Housing building for senior citizens, which is called the Samuel Tabas Apartments. This building still exists today on Strahle Street in Northeast Philadelphia. The building has recently been totally renovated and provides safe housing for seniors along with meals and activities.”
Pursuing the Federation Housing projects comes naturally to Robert Tabas.
“I grew up in the hospitality business,” he said. “My dad had Mickey Rooney’s Downingtown Inn and Mickey Rooney’s Tabas Hotel years ago. I was brought up in these businesses that housed guests, fed them delicious meals and provided activities. This was the resort hotel business. In many ways, [Jewish] Federation Housing has the same attributes as the hotel business: lodging, food and activities.”
Tabas proudly notes that Federation Housing has 10 other buildings that all share the Samuel Tabas Apartments’ qualities.
“And one of the other buildings is named the Evelyn and Daniel Tabas House, which serves to perpetuate the Tabas connection,” he said. “My grandfather Samuel would always tell me, as a young man, how important it was to look after the older generation and learn from them. It has always been a passion of mine … That’s why I have been an active board member and past president of Federation Housing, a wonderful organization where I spend a lot of my free time giving back to the community.”
With the Bryn Mawr purchase of Royal Bank, Robert Tabas said, “I’ll have more time for that now.”
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