Prosperity Bancshares' Starsky Misses His Hutch

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David Zalman is used to making deals, but he is not used to being the nice guy on the buyer's side of the table.

Prosperity Bancshares (PB), the company Zalman leads, this week announced a $194 million agreement for Coppermark Bancshares in Oklahoma City. While it is the company's sixth deal in 15 months, it is the first one announced since James D. "Dan" Rollins 3rd left his position as president and chief operating officer of Prosperity to become chief executive of BancorpSouth (BXS) last month.

Zalman said he and Rollins teamed up in negotiating transactions, with each having distinct personas.

"Dan was really the good guy on the M&A front. In every deal, you have a good guy and a bad guy. This time I had to be the good guy," Zalman said on Tuesday. "I'll miss him in that role."

Zalman's lament over his departed colleague went further. Rollins' job also involved talking to investors and the 19 analysts who follow the company, he said.

"He would have been great to have here today," Zalman said, after a day spent talking with shareholders and others.

Zalman made the comments after being asked whether one of the executives from Coppermark, many of whom have agreed to stay on with the consolidated company, are candidates to replace Rollins.

Prosperity is still deciding how it wants to fill the void, Zalman said. He described Rollins' job as split 40% talking with analysts and investors, 30% traveling to various markets to hire people, solve problems or other handle other issues and the rest negotiating deals.

"We have to decide if we want to hire an [investor relations] person or do we want to promote or recruit for the whole job," he said.

John Pancari, an analyst with Evercore, wrote in a research note Monday that Rollins' departure was a notable loss to the management team overall and is likely to be a near-term distraction.

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