Johnny Allison: Home BancShares, Liberty Deal Marks 'Day of History in Arkansas'

Johnny Allison: Home BancShares, Liberty Deal Marks 'Day of History in Arkansas'
Home BancShares, a major player in FDIC-assisted acquisitions, is led by Chairman John Allison (left). Wallace Fowler of Jonesboro is chairman, CEO and leading shareholder of Liberty Bancshares.

The purchase agreement to acquire Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro by Home BancShares Inc. represents the largest in-state banking transaction in Arkansas history.

The $280 million combination stock swap and cash deal was announced officially this afternoon at a press conference at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The long talked about, on-again, off-again banking merger, uniting old friends Johnny Allison and Wallace Fowler, is expected to close in the third quarter.

Allison, chairman of Home BancShares, described the deal as the most significant transaction of his career and the announcement represented "a day of history being made in Arkansas."

He noted that the combination of the two organizations will create a banking franchise with 1,500 employees, 92 locations in Arkansas and 151 total locations with Centennial's Florida and Alabama included.

"That's a long way from selling my first mobile home at 13," Allison quipped of his first business success in Jonesboro, where he grew up and met Fowler nearly 50 years ago.

"This is a true fit and a perfect fit," said Fowler, chairman and CEO of Liberty, of the corporate culture and complimentary footprints of the two banking networks.

Fowler said he and his fellow Liberty staffers and shareholders looked forward to being in the Home BancShares family.

"In fact, I've already got my (new corporate lapel) pin on," he said at the podium.

Gov. Mike Beebe lauded both businessmen for their decades of contributions to Arkansas and communities around the state.

Beebe described Fowler as a mentor to both him and Allison, and he praised Allison for his entrepreneurial spirit.

"Congratulations," Beebe said of the merger news.

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