Pinnacle Bank to acquire Liberty First |


MONROE, Georgia – Pinnacle Bank has announced plans to purchase Monroe-based Liberty First Bank.

Pinnacle Financial Corp., parent company of Elberton-based Pinnacle Bank, has signed a definitive merger agreement with Liberty First Bank under which Pinnacle will acquire Liberty First in a cash and stock transaction valued at of approximately $ 19.1 million.

This represents approximately $ 16.50 per outstanding share of Liberty common stock.

Lee Garrett at his office at Liberty First Bank in Monroe.

D. Lee Garrett, president of Liberty First, will remain with Pinnacle as a senior market executive in the region. A press release said Garrett is leading Liberty bankers “excited about new opportunities with Pinnacle.”

Pinnacle has branches at 238 S. Broad St. in downtown Monroe and at 112 N. Cherokee Road in downtown Social Circle. In total, Pinnacle has 22 branches in 15 counties in northeast Georgia.

Liberty First is located at 1901 W. Spring St. The bank opened in 2006 with five employees working from a small office on Michael Etchison Road. Its headquarters and banking office are now in the Bankers Grove development, perched above the bustling intersection of West Spring Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Liberty will add about $ 183 million in assets, $ 72 million in loans and $ 168 million in deposits to Pinnacle, company officials said. Upon completion of the transaction, Pinnacle will have approximately $ 1.8 billion in assets, $ 1.1 billion in loans and $ 1.6 billion in deposits, based on financial data released as of March 31. 2021.

The combined bank is said to have the second-largest market share in Walton County, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. records. at the end of June 2020, the last date for which statistics were available.

Together, the combined bank would have $ 235.35 million in local deposits, which would still place it well behind the $ 409.8 million on deposit at Synovus. The Columbus-based bank has the longest history in Monroe, dating back to 1891 and the Walton County National Bank.

“We are delighted to announce the combination of Pinnacle and Liberty,” L. Jackson McConnell Jr., CEO of Pinnacle Bank and CEO of Pinnacle Financial Corp., said in a press release.

“This transaction will allow us to partner with an excellent financial institution that shares our commitment to serving Walton County and other communities in Georgia. Our partnership with Liberty reinforces our strategy of expansion into our current markets where enthusiasm and community growth reign.

Dawn Griffin, Liberty First CEO since its inception, said the bank was “thrilled” to partner with a company that dates back to the 1930s.

“Our customers will benefit from the increased market share served by the combined bank, as well as the breadth and depth of the products and services offered through this combination.

“Pinnacle is a true community bank and decisions will continue to be made locally by bankers with a vested interest in the businesses and communities of our clients.

Garrett has been responsible for loans at Liberty First since it opened in 2006. He succeeded Griffin as president on January 1, 2020, and Griffin retained his title as CEO.

A legal opinion published in The Tribune in December 2005 listed the directors of the young Liberty First Bank, a prominent Walton County business and government scholar: Eugene M. Benton, Harold L. “Hal” Breedlove, George J. Hearn III, Robert C. King, George B. Launius, Charles H. Hogan, Darrell H. McWaters, E. Kenneth Murray Sr., William Lee Smith, L. Franklin Shackleford Jr., David G. Thompson, Virgil R. Williams Jr. and Hugh Bruce Williamson III.

Benton was then a judge of the Superior Court and has since returned to practice private law in Monroe. Thompson is now chairman of the Walton County Board of Commissioners and Williamson is a state representative.

Hearn, who died in 2014, served as a Walton County Juvenile Court judge for 24 years.

The Walton Tribune awarded Liberty First Bank the title of Walton County Employer of the Year in 2018. Garrett won the Community Spirit Award in 2015.

Pinnacle Bank dates back to 1934, when it was founded as the First National Bank of Elberton. The bank acquired Pinnacle Bank of Royston and took the name in 1998.

Pinnacle Bank came to Walton County when it acquired the Georgia Central Bank of Social Circle in 2007.

The deal is expected to be finalized in the last quarter of 2021. It has received unanimous support from the boards of directors of both companies and is subject to regulatory approval and Liberty shareholder approval.

McConnell will remain CEO of Pinnacle after the deal closes. He is also Chairman of the Pinnacle Board of Directors, which includes Dr Thomas E. McGarity of Jersey and Greg T. Herring of Covington.

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