One Bank Founding Traced to 1956 Organization of American National Bank

by George Waldon  on Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 12:00 am  

McBryde said he was pressured to sign off on a document that effectively would have excluded the ESOP stock from the sale and cut the employees out of a payday.

“I was told they could not have anyone working for them who didn’t interpret legal documents the same way they interpreted them,” McBryde said. “But I was the trustee of the ESOP. I just couldn’t go along with it.”

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency got wind of the leadership’s effort to exclude the ESOP stock and warned the bank’s executives in no uncertain terms that if that happened, someone would go to jail.

With Twin City out of the way, J.B. Hunt and David Howell put together a winning proposal that amounted to 2.2 times book value, according to May. The trucking magnate and banking executive had plans of building a banking powerhouse.

At the time, the banking interests of Hunt and Howell represented $580 million in total assets. The combined assets of the First American banks and their First National Bank of Fayetteville created the third-largest bank holding company in Arkansas behind Worthen Banking Corp. and First Commercial Corp.

In round numbers, asset totals at the banks were First American Bank of North Little Rock, $240 million; First American Bank of Little Rock, $50 million; and the First American Bank of Hot Springs, $50 million. Their First National Bank of Fayetteville added another $240 million to the mix.

“They paid way too much to service the debt, much less make a profit,” May said. “If you take the four best years they ever had, you still couldn’t service the debt.”

The First American purchase was backed with a $41 million loan syndicated by Centerre Bank of St. Louis. Documents filed with bank regulators outlined the vision of Hunt and Howell:

“While there are no definite plans or timetables at this time, the acquiring parties also intend, during the two-year, interest-only period to sell stock in First American Bancshares Inc. through private and/or public offerings in order to reduce the amount of acquisition indebtedness.”

Derailing the possibility of an IPO was the stock market crash on Oct. 19, 1987, and performance issues at First American that flowed into its incarnation as One National Bank.

“We had dreams of getting into big banking, and it turned out not to be as easy as we thought it would be,” said Bob Shell, president of Little Rock’s Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., who served as a director for 15 years at One National Bank-One Bank & Trust.

During his tenure, the bank struggled to meet the expectations and service the debt.

“It was profitable, but not very profitable,” Shell said. “They were just getting along, but not much better than that. But again, we weren’t having any problems, and we were making some money.”

A sell-off of Hunt’s banking interests in 1991 slashed the debt and created today’s One Bank. Helping Hunt with this repositioning was Layton “Scooter” Stuart.

He would enter the ownership picture and lead the bank until his OCC-mandated ouster last year.



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