Liberty Bank to Merge 2 State Charters

Liberty Bank of Arkansas, Jonesboro, has applied with the Arkansas State Bank Department to merge charters with Liberty Bank of Arkansas, Siloam Springs.

Both banks are owned in whole or in part by Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro. Liberty Bancshares and Russellville Bancshares Inc. purchased the Siloam Springs operation, formerly known as Arkansas State Bank, late last year.

Liberty Bancshares paid $23.7 million for an 80 percent stake in ASB's parent company, Arkansas State Bancshares Inc., while Russellville Bancshares acquired the remaining 20 percent for $6 million.

Liberty founder Wallace Fowler said his company is in the process of buying out the 20 percent stake Russellville Bancshares holds in the northwest Arkansas operation.

Of the bank's changes since late last year, Fowler said both the Allen family and the Simmons family, who were significant shareholders in ASB, have been "pleased." The Allen family owns Allen Canning Co. and the Simmons family owns Simmons Foods Inc., both of Siloam Springs.

Liberty Bancshares also purchased Mountain Home's TrustBanc Financial Group Inc. in a deal that was valued at more than $26.6 million late last year.

Fowler said officials aren't sure which charter will remain if and when the merger is approved, but added that it would likely be his original Jonesboro charter.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Siloam Springs charter dates to 1960, while the Jonesboro charter dates to 1920.

Howard Hamilton, president of Liberty's northwest Arkansas division, said the merger will be seamless to consumers and will help with the bank's back office operations.

Liberty Bancshares has about $1.2 billion in assets as of this month, Fowler said.