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First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc.

The lineage of First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. stretches back to 1934, but the holding company for First Federal Bank, a savings thrift, regained prominence after a multimillion investment by a group led by former Alltel Corp. CEO Scott Ford.

Based in Harrison, First Federal was led for 30 years by Frank L. Coffman, who died in May 2001 after having been CEO since 1968. Under Coffman’s direction, the company went public in 1996.

Coffman’s son-in-law, Larry Brandt, succeed him as CEO in 2001. Brant had been with the company since 1973, becoming COO in 1984 and president and managing officer in 1987.

Like other banks during the credit crisis of the late 2000s, First Federal was exposed to underperforming loans that caused quarterly losses and put its business at risk.

In 2011, the company accepted a $46 million recapitalization by Bear State Financial Holdings LLC, representing a group of Arkansas businessmen including Ford, Aaron Clark of The Stephens Group; and Dabbs Cavin, who eventually became CEO when Brandt retired.

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