Highlights From Wallace Fowler's Path to Liberty Bank

by George Waldon  on Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2013 12:13 pm  

Wallace Fowler (Photo by Graycen Colbert)

The sale of Jonesboro's Liberty Bancshares Inc. to Home BancShares Inc. of Conway is expected to be announced at a news conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce building.

The deal marks the merger of two of the largest banking franchises in Arkansas and would create the second-largest bank headquartered in the state.

It also caps a 31-year run in banking for Wallace Fowler, the chairman, CEO and leading shareholder of Liberty Bancshares.

Below are the highlights from Fowler's years in banking and the deals that ultimately built Liberty Bancshares.

1982: Wallace Fowler Sr. leads the purchase of Citizens Bank of Bentonville and renames it First National Bank.

1984: Fowler sells the bank to Phillip Lynn Lloyd and his Lynxx Banking Corp.

August 1985: Fowler makes his first stock purchase in Mercantile Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro.

June 1990: Fowler sells North Arkansas Bancshares (the renamed Mercantile Bancshares) with total assets of $422 million, to Union Planters Corp. of Memphis for $36.1 million. Fowler has a 40 percent stake in the six-bank holding company he built around Mercantile Bank in Jonesboro.

September 1990: Fowler quickly returns to banking with his newly formed Southwest Bancshares Inc. in a $2.1 million acquisition of First National Bank of Poinsett County in Trumann. His non-compete agreement with Union Planters prohibits him from banking activity in neighboring Craighead County.

January 1992: Southwest Bancshares purchases Bank of Dover for $1.5 million and later moves the bank to Russellville.

November 1992: Fowler formally re-enters the Craighead County bank market when Southwest Bancshares buys Bank of Caraway for $1.2 million. The operation ultimately is moved to Jonesboro and becomes First Bank of Arkansas, the holding company's flagship bank.

August 1993: Southwest Bancshares pays $988,000 for Cherry Valley Bancshares, which owns First Arkansas Bank of Wynne.

1995: First Bank of Arkansas becomes the largest bank operation in Jonesboro, surpassing Union Planters.

May 1997: Southwest Bancshares sells to Little Rock's First Commercial Corp. in a $127 million stock swap, 2.25 times book value. The transaction makes Fowler's family, which owns 38 percent of Southwest Bancshares, the third largest shareholder in First Commercial.

July 1998: First Commercial sells in a $3 billion stock swap to Regions Financial Corp. of BirminghamAla. Fowler's First Commercial shares are worth about $90 million.

September 2000: Fowler begins early legwork to buy a bank and return to the Jonesboro market. This effort would culminate in Liberty Bancshares.

 

 

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