Banks merge marking historical deal in Arkansas

Tuesday was a historical one for banking business in Arkansas, with the merging of Liberty BancShares Inc. into and Home BancShares Inc. the parents company for Centennial Bank.

This merger marks the largest in-state banking transaction in the history of the state.

It's set to put the combined company's assets at $7.1 billion, while also placing two Jonesboro businessmen together.

A merger rumored for years is finally signed on the dotted line bringing together Home BancShares Chairman, John Allison, and Liberty BancShares CEO, Wallace Fowler.

"Wallace (Fowler) told me at the state police meeting 45 days ago 'I'm ready,' I said 'Okay,'" remembered Allison about how finalizing of the deal took shape.

Allison said in the past the deal was put off, once because he decided to take his company public, and now that this moment is finally coming to fruition it's somewhat surreal.

"The deal when you look at the market, you saw the board, it's a perfect fit of good cultures and similar cultures," Allison added. "We give back so much money to our communities, Liberty gives back to their communities, so we'll continue that."

This merger will make the group the second-largest Arkansas-based holding company, only second to Arvest. The merger includes 92 branches within the state, and 59 out of state. All of the banks will be under the name Centennial once the merger is complete.

Governor Mike Beebe made an appearance of support for the two fellow Arkansans paving the way in banking.

"Both Wallace (Fowler) and Johnny (Allison) are good bankers, good businessmen, and good leaders," Governor Beebe said. "They're really blessed with having really good staffs across the state."

There is an overlap of the banks in two Arkansas cities, located in Morrilton and Searcy.

It's unclear at this time if there will be any job loss.

This deal isn't expected to be approved until the fourth-quarter of the year, possibly in September, according to Allison.