George Makris Jr. became CEO of Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff in January 2014, following the planned retirement of legendary banker J. Thomas May.
Makris had spent his career in his family’s Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship, M.K. Distributors Inc., another Pine Bluff mainstay less than a mile from the Simmons headquarters building. He had been a bank director for decades, starting with 12 years at Pine Bluff’s National Bank of Commerce, which was acquired by Worthen, then Boatman’s, then Bank of America. He has been a director at publicly traded Simmons since 1997.
Makris has said Simmons intends to grow. It has certainly taken advantage of FDIC-assisted deals — like the ones that brought in Excel Bank of Sedalia, Mo., and Truman Bank of St. Louis in 2012 and Southwest Community Bank of Springfield, Mo., and Security Savings Bank FSB of Olathe, Kan., in 2010.
At the end of 2013, when Makris was CEO-elect, Simmons won a high-profile auction to buy the assets of Metropolitan National Bank of the Little Rock. Simmons closed on the $53.6 million acquisition in November 2013. The deal gave the company greater presence in central and northwest Arkansas, allowing it to enter new markets including Benton, Bryant, Cabot and Maumelle.
Makris is a product of Pine Bluff, leaving his hometown only for college (a bachelor’s in business administration from Rhodes College at Memphis in 1978 and an MBA from the University of Arkansas in 1980) and for a four-year stint in Little Rock so that the youngest of his three sons could play tennis for Little Rock Central High.
John had “an excellent academic experience” there. After he graduated, Makris and his wife, Deborah, a daughter of the late Quality Foods founder Don Kirkpatrick, returned to Pine Bluff.
“And that was our intent all along,” he said.
Their oldest son, George Makris III, is a lawyer with the Securities & Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C. The middle son, Nick, has returned to Pine Bluff to work at M.K. Distributors, and John will also be coming back to the family business after he graduates from the University of Arkansas’ Walton School of Business.
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