Wachovia shareholders finalize Wells Fargo deal

By approving the sale of Wachovia to Wells Fargo on Tuesday, shareholders signed off on creating a new coast-to-coast banking giant but mourned the end of a once venerable N.C. institution that neared collapse in the current financial crisis.

The conclusion was not surprising because the Charlotte bank had granted the San Francisco-based bank a nearly 40 percent voting stake, all but assuring the outcome. The deal, now valued at about $11.6 billion, is set to close New Year's Eve and likely means job cuts for thousands of Wachovia employees.

The merger was approved by about 76 percent of the votes entitled to be cast, including Wachovia's outstanding common stock and the preferred shares issued to Wells. Wachovia said a majority of the common stock holders backed the deal.

After a dramatic year that saw Wachovia oust its CEO, border on bankruptcy and forge deals with Citigroup, then Wells Fargo, the meeting was a somber, anticlimactic affair.

"It was a funeral," said shareholder Charlie Williams, 73.

Employees and shareholders passed through metal detectors before quietly filing into a ballroom at the Hilton Charlotte Center City hotel, adjacent to Wachovia's headquarters. Only five of 17 Wachovia directors attended, including chief executive Bob Steel and chairman Lanty Smith.

To read the complete column, visit The Charlotte Observer.

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