JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It was a historic moment Tuesday afternoon at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce as it was announced Liberty Bank has been sold to Home BancShares.
The merger doubles the amount of Centennial Banks throughout the state, making Centennial Bank the second largest bank holding company headquartered in Arkansas.
"This is a day of history that's being made in Arkansas," Chairman of Home BancShares, John Allison said.
Tuesday's announcement regarding Centennial and Liberty Bank marks the biggest in-state banking merger ever for Arkansas.
"It's always been exciting for me to think about Jonesboro and doing something with Wallace in Jonesboro. It's a story of coming home and investing back in my hometown," Allison said.
Both banks have 46 locations throughout central and northern Arkansas, giving Centennial Bank 92 branch locations in the state now and 1,500 employees.
"It's almost a duplicate operation, it's almost amazing how many similarities there are," Wallace Fowler, Chairman and CEO of Liberty Bank told Region 8 News.
Fowler started Liberty Bank in 2001 and explained because of those similar operation styles, Liberty customers shouldn't be concerned about major changes.
"It's gonna be the same people," Fowler said. "It will not be a massive layoff and all this because it takes so many to run the bank and give the service we all have been known to give."
Allison added the reason they can avoid massive layoffs is visible from the map of where current bank branches are.
"It's like a glove, it just fits so well. Virtually no overlap, because you don't want a lot of overlap on one of these deals," Allison said. The only towns with overlapping branches are Morrilton and Searcy.
Governor Mike Beebe was at the announcement as well. He said he admires Fowler for what he's built in Northeast Arkansas
"This may be the third bank that he's started and built up and you see the size and the quality and the value of that too," Beebe said.
Beebe said Allison's character will continue that.
"He's born with a gift of entrepreneurial spirit. He takes chances but they're the kind of chances where he measures the risk," Beebe said. "He's a heckuva good businessman."
The big question for a lot of ASU fans in Jonesboro...what happens with the naming of Liberty Bank Stadium? Allison told Region 8 News it will likely remain named Liberty Bank Stadium this season and change to Centennial Stadium next year.
The merger is expected to close in the 3rd quarter of 2013.