Robert E. "Bobby" Lowder (born c. 1944 in Alabama) is the founder and former president, CEO and chairman of Colonial Bancgroup, parent of Colonial Bank. He is also well-known for his position on the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
Lowder earned his bachelor of science in finance from Auburn in 1964. He served as a lieutenant in the United States Army and became an executive in the Colonial Company, a holding company owned by his family with interests in real estate, mortgages, construction and insurance. He founded Colonial Broadcasting which owned radio stations in four states.
Lowder founded Colonial Bank in 1981 with the purchase of the Exchange National Bank of Birmingham. He oversaw aggressive expansion and acquisitions and, after 27 years, oversaw a bank group with 352 locations in five states and total assets of $26 billion. In 2006 his five-year compensation total of over $11 million placed him among the 50 highest-paid banking executives according to Forbes magazine. Lowder retired from the bank in May 2009, but remained its largest individual stock holder. The bank was seized by federal regulators in August 2009, nullifying the value of his 7.6 million outstanding shares which had peaked in 2006 at a high of $26.97.
Lowder was appointed to Auburn's board of trustees by Governor George Wallace in 1983 (after he made a large donation to Wallace). At the end of his first 12-year term in 1995, then Governor Fob James nominated a replacement, but the board refused to seat him and Lowder filed a lawsuit to keep his seat, which he won because the Alabama State Senate had never approved a replacement. Governor Don Siegelman nominated Lowder to a fresh 12-year term in 1999. Lowder heavily supported Siegelman's campaign against James in the 1998 general election.
As trustee, Lowder has been criticized for his perceived personal influence over university administration, especially with regard to the athletics program. The Board's dismissal of president William Muse in 2001 was interpreted by many as the result of a personal conflict between Muse and Lowder. He was a central figure in the so-called "Jetgate" scandal in 2003 when university administrators flew on Lowder's private jet to speak with University of Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino about taking over the Auburn Tigers football team from Tommy Tuberville.
- Basinger, Julianne (March 16, 2001) "Trustees' Ouster of President at Auburn Fuels Widespread Anger." The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Crawford, Cindy F. (May 28, 2009) "Lowder retiring from Colonial BancGroup." Birmingham Business Journal
- "Bobby Lowder, Milton McGregor, Pat Dye: Big losers in Colonial dive" (August 31, 2009) Associated Press