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Other Banks Considered Buying National Bank of Arkansas

3 min read

The pending sale of National Bank of Arkansas will mark an end to a 32-year run for the North Little Rock enterprise.

The purchase price that an Arvest Bank affiliate is paying for the $186.7 million-asset lender is portrayed as something of a moving target.

One NBA insider placed a conservative estimate of the transaction at about $102 per share.

At that valuation, the deal is worth about $9.6 million.

The math involved in the acquisition equation is described as 1.25 times adjusted book value.

Other banks inquired about purchasing NBA before Arvest struck its recent deal, which is expected to close by November with regulatory approval. Those overtures from would-be buyers such as Bank of the Ozarks, Home BancShares and a Scooter Stuart-led One Bank & Trust didn’t get very far.

“Like any community bank these days, it’s a struggle, so I think it’s a good time to sell,” said Little Rock attorney Skip Davidson. “It would have been better to sell in 2005, of course.”

His 23.9 percent stake, through Davidson Holding Co., in NBA’s parent company, National Banking Corp., is worth nearly $2.3 million based on the $102 per share price.

Davidson’s block of NBC stock is second only to the bank’s chairman, Bobby J. Osborne. Osborne, through BJO Ltd., controls a 53.1 percent stake worth nearly $5.1 million.

NBA was marketed as the “Little Bank with the Big Heart” not long after it opened for business on Jan. 2, 1981. But that warm and fuzzy slogan belied an early history of conflict and controversy that included internal feuding and boardroom dissension fueled by performance issues.

The infighting blew up into litigation after a March 28, 1989, shareholder coup ousted Ron Tullos, the bank’s president and CEO, who orchestrated its formation despite considerable obstacles.

Tullos, who died Feb. 6, 2009, recounted that fateful proxy battle in a 1992 interview with Arkansas Business: “What I said to them that night was, ‘See you around boys.’ It was a moment of triumph for them and later humiliation for me … . It certainly hasn’t been forgotten.”

The launch of NBA followed months of opposition from competing banks. Every Pulaski County bank fought Tullos’ effort to obtain a charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency save one: Little Rock’s Commercial National Bank, which merged with First National Bank of Little Rock to form First Commercial Bank in 1983.

The competitive opposition was so fierce that North Little Rock businessman Richard Hall, who helped organize the bank, believed the institution would never get off the ground. Hall, who died in 1980, had vowed to eat his words on television if the group was successful in obtaining a charter. “I always swore he died just so he wouldn’t have to do that,” said his wife, Emma.

Tony Rand, the aspiring movie theater mogul, once held a 15.6 percent piece of NBA before the first of two fraud convictions.

Rand became a leading antagonist against Tullos in the hostile takeover, but he exited the ownership picture around 1990. His shares ended up with Osborne and Davidson.

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