Thomas O'Brien, the chief executive and president of State Bancorp Inc., just proved the adage that short-term pain can sometimes yield long-term gains.

Under O'Brien, State Bancorp. of Jericho, N.Y., had been purging problem loans at steep discounts, rather than holding them, as many other banks have done, in hopes of a greater recovery. His strategy was validated, observers said, when the once-troubled company announced Thursday it would sell itself to Valley National Bancorp in Wayne, N.J., at a hefty premium of 1.85 times tangible book value.

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