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Troy Duke, L.R. Gardner Plan to Buy Bank of Rison

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Sigma Holdings Inc. of Little Rock, a newly formed investment company led by veteran Little Rock banker Troy Duke and Garland County businessman Lewis Ray “LR” Gardner, announced Friday a deal to buy the Bank of Rison.

Duke said the deal for the bank, the smallest in the state with $26 million in assets as of Dec. 31, was not finalized and declined to give the purchase price being contemplated. The bank reported a net loss of $1.27 million for 2012 and started 2013 with a small – $10,000 – loss for the first quarter.

The Bank of Rison, he noted, had been “left at the altar” by Fordyce Bank & Trust last year. The price tag on that aborted deal was originally $5.4 million but fell to $4.2 million before falling apart completely. The bank’s equity capital reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as of March 31 was just shy of $4.1 million.

The acting CEO, Don Walsh, “has been doing a super job, but they’ve just been holding the fort down until a suitable buyer came along,” Duke told Arkansas Business. Duke will become the chief executive, and Walsh will return to retirement.

Otherwise, “Sigma does not anticipate any significant changes to operations following the closing,” according to the news release announcing the agreement. The Bank of Rison, with one office on Main Street, had nine employees at the end of 2012, according to the FDIC.

Sigma Holdings, with Gardner as registered agent and a mailing address in Royal, was incorporated on March 29, according to records of the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office. Gardner and his family sold their Crackerbox chain of convenience stores to Valero in 2012.

Duke said he would also have an ownership share in the bank, which was chartered in 1932.

Asked if Sigma Holdings was on the hunt for other bank acquisitions, Duke said, “There’s nothing right now on the horizon.” But he added that the holding company “will have excess capital, which gives us some room for growth. And that’s what they need is a little growth.”

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to serve our customers and the community of Rison,” Duke said in the press release. “This is a wonderful southern Arkansas town that is rich with tradition, outstanding community leaders, and friendly citizens. We look forward to serving the people of Rison and maintaining the long term commitment to economic growth historically shown by the Bank of Rison.”

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