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Published: Saturday, 2/10/2001

Bank sells La-Z-Boy shares worth $7.1 million

MONROE - In the last two months of last year, the largest holder of La-Z-Boy, Inc., stock dumped nearly 500,000 shares.

The Monroe Bank & Trust isn't talking about why, but the cross-town furniture giant in this Michigan town guessed that it was shares held by the bank's trust department for estates that were settling up at year's end.

The shares, which were sold in blocks of 550 to 100,000, have a collective value of $7.1 million.

At the time of the sales, the stock was valued at $14.12 to $15.86 a share. La-Z-Boy closed at 4 p.m. yesterday at $17 a share, down 44 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mark Stegeman, La-Z-Boy treasurer, conceded the volume of stock sold in November and December was unusually high but that management was unconcerned after talking to the bank.

The bank ``has a lot of the founding families' money that they handle, people that were here in Monroe when co-founder (Edwin) Shoemaker was asking for money to get started,'' Mr. Stegeman said.

``Monroe Bank & Trust has a lot of trusts that they look after, and people are starting to die. When they die, they must pay estate taxes. I think that's probably the significant dollars that you're seeing.”

Although La-Z-boy has been notified when shares are about to be sold, it has not gobbled up any itself, Mr. Stegeman said.

The bank sold 481,463 shares in the last two months of last year, or just under 1 per cent of La-Z-Boy's 60.7 million share of outstanding stock.

A spokesman for Monroe Bank & Trust said its activities on behalf of customers is private and would not reveal who made the stock sales or why.

But he said some sales were requested, some were automatic, and some were made by the bank as part of its financial duty to manage the trust.

By law a bank cannot invest in shares of a stock, it can only hold them or manage them for a client.

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