Bill Cooper took over Twin City Federal Savings and Loan in 1985, reshaped it into the state's third-largest bank and became a major figure in Minnesota politics along the way.
Now, the 72-year-old is retiring for a second time from his role as chief executive of TCF Financial Corp.
Craig Dahl, a 16-year veteran of the bank and its vice chairman since 2012, will take over the top spot at the end of the year. Cooper will remain chairman through 2017.
The change had been widely expected. Cooper's latest employment contract revealed the planned transition, and Dahl's elevation to president earlier this year signaled he was the likely successor.
TCF formally announced the change Monday morning at a meeting it hosted for investors and analysts in New York. The executives weren't available for interviews, but both talked about it at the event, the first TCF has conducted for investors in nine years.
As he introduced Dahl, Cooper exhibited the blunt speaking style for which he has long been known. "Frankly, he's kind of already taken over," Cooper said, as the audience laughed. "Sometimes I get invited to a meeting, and sometimes I don't."
Cooper — also well-known in Minnesota as a former chairman of the state Republican Party and a conservative activist — first retired from the company in 2005.
He returned in July 2008 as the nation's housing crisis began to weigh heavily on the performance of banks. TCF didn't make risky subprime loans to consumers with weak credit histories. But new regulations that emerged from the crisis created a different challenge: the evaporation of lucrative fees it collected when consumers made purchases with debit cards.
In the meeting with investors, Cooper said that the Durbin amendment and Regulation E, rules that curbed the fees banks could charge for debit card transactions, cost TCF about $100 million in annual revenue.
"It really challenged our banking model," he said.
While TCF has largely replaced that lost revenue, the company's stock has remained well below the level it traded at before the 2008 crisis.
Cooper, Dahl and other TCF executives used Monday's meeting to try to clear what they described as misunderstandings by institutional investors about the company. Cooper began by confronting one of the biggest, saying, "I'm often asked, 'How long is TCF going to be around?' "
He noted TCF's long history of reinventing itself and its record of profitability, even through the latest challenging period. In 2008, when other banks strained for liquidity, Cooper said TCF's reliance on core deposits paid off.
"We didn't even know there was a liquidity crisis going on," he said. "Our customers left their money in the bank."
Cooper's biggest challenge came when he arrived at Twin City Federal at the height of the savings and loan crisis in the mid-1980s. The thrift's existence was in question after it had burned through much of its equity because of high interest rates and purchases of other thrifts at premium prices. In 1986, Cooper presided over an initial public offering that infused the institution with capital, then went on a cost-cutting binge that helped return it to profitability.
In the 1990s, the thrift was rechartered as a bank and took the name TCF. Since then, it has grown to nearly 400 branches, including 99 in Minnesota, where it trails only Wells Fargo & Co. and U.S. Bancorp in size. Today, TCF's asset base of nearly $20 billion is four times larger than it was 30 years ago.