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Bear State Financial Discloses Raises for Executives, Sets Meeting Date

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Bear State Financial Inc. released its annual proxy statement and announced its annual shareholders meeting to be held May 29 at the company’s Harrison headquarters.

The two largest blocks of Bear State are controlled by Bear State Financial Holdings LLC of Little Rock, a 56.86 percent stake worth $189.4 million; and John Hendrix of McKinney, Texas, a 9.01 percent stake worth $30 million.

Three other top executives during 2014 were Chris Wewers, who received a salary of $250,000 as president and CEO, a 7.2 percent raise. Wewers resigned from Bear State on March 9 to join Arkadelphia’s Southern Bancorp Inc. as CFO.

Matthew Machen received a salary of $170,250 as executive vice president and chief financial officer, a raise of 27 percent.

Thomas Fritsche Jr., executive vice president and chief risk officer, received a salary of $230,000, a 15 percent raise. Fritsche also received a bonus of $10,000.

Rick Massey, chairman of the board of Bear State Financial, also bears the titles of acting president and CEO of Bear State Financial, for which he received no salary.

Massey, 59, managing member of the company’s largest shareholder, Bear State Financial Holdings, is among nine directors standing for reelection to the board of directors. 

He was elected to the board in 2011 along with: Dabbs Cavin, 50, chief financial officer of Mountaire Corp. of Little Rock; Aaron Clark, 33, managing director of The Stephens Group LLC of Little Rock; Scott Ford, 52, CEO of Westrock Group LLC of Little Rock; Fitz Hill, 51, president of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock.

Dan Horton, 74, a veteran Arkansas banker; and Ian Vaughan, 38, a former director of First National Bank of Hot Springs, joined the board last year in connection with the acquisition of First National Security Co. The $122.4 million cash-stock swap purchase also led to John Hendrix becoming a leading shareholder. 

Frank Conner, 65, has served as Bear State director since 2003. Conner, a former CFO with FedEx Freight East, American Freightways and McKesson Service Merchandise, also serves on the board of directors at P.A.M. Transportation Services Inc. of Tontitown.

Brock Gearhart, 33, president of the investment advising firm of Greenwood Gearhart Inc. in Fayetteville, has served as a director since 2012.

The proxy noted the April 1 death of John Paul Hammerschmidt. The former congressman was a director at the company since 1996 and with First Federal Bank since 1966.

Bear State shareholders of record as of April 9 will be entitled to vote at the annual meeting. 

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