Joseph Rice, Bank Chief Who Fought Hostile Takeover, Dies at 93

In the end, the prey succumbed. Irving Bank’s board agreed to sell in 1988, striking a deal that made Bank of New York the nation’s 12th-largest bank.

The corporate fight took a personal toll on Mr. Rice, who retired after the acquisition, his son Philip said.

“When you consider the roots of Irving Trust, going back to the 19th century — to be the last guy presiding over a bank with that kind of history was quite sad for him,” Philip Rice said.

Joseph Albert Rice was born in Cranford, N.J., on Oct. 11, 1924, to Louis Rice, a teacher, and the former Elizabeth Michael. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., in 1948 and two master’s degrees, in industrial engineering and government, from New York University.

Mr. Rice began his professional life as an aeronautical engineer. Seeking management experience, he took a job at IBM, where he ran an operations division at the start of the mainframe era.

His banking career was something of a reinvention. He moved into the financial field after striking up a friendship with Irving Bank’s chairman at the time, Gordon T. Wallis, during their train commutes between Manhattan and Westchester County. Mr. Wallis persuaded Mr. Rice to join the bank, and later turned the leadership reins over to him.

Mr. Rice remained active in business after his retirement and continued commuting into New York City nearly every day, his son said. He served on the boards of several public companies, including Avon Products and Apache Corporation, and was the chairman of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s board of trustees from 1997 to 2013.

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His business career took him to 57 countries. He was often accompanied on those trips by his wife, Katharine Wolfe Rice, whom he married in 1948 and who was known as Kay. She died in 2013.

In addition to his son Philip, Mr. Rice is survived by two other sons, Walter and Alan; a daughter, Carol Rice; a grandson; and two step-grandsons.

Bank of New York, now known as BNY Mellon, remains one of America’s biggest banks. Had the dice fallen slightly differently, Irving Bank might have been the surviving entity. A few years before Bank of New York made its unsolicited bid, Irving’s management had floated the idea of acquiring its rival.

“My father was a gentleman,” Philip Rice said. “When they weren’t interested, he just said ‘O.K.,’ and let it go.”

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