After years of flirting Central Illinois Financial Co. and BankIllinois Financial Co. are finally tying the knot.

"It was a marriage whose time had come," said Gregory B. Lykins, chairman and chief executive of BankIllinois, who will be chairman and chief executive of the new holding company and merged bank.

The two Champaign, Ill., companies said they are planning to merge as equals. A new holding company, to be called Central Illinois Financial Co., would merge $215 million-asset BankIllinois and $270 million-asset Central.

The companies' bank subsidiaries will merge into a single institution called BankIllinois, which will have nine locations. They. also plan a new trust company, BankIllinois Trust Co.

The two companies had discussed merging more than once before over the years, but had disagreements about the value of problem loans and real-estate owned, Mr. Lykins said.

"Because the organizations have come to the altar before," they really wanted to take it due diligence further than usual," Mr. Lykins said.

The merger is expected to be completed by mid-1995, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

After the merger, Central Illinois president and CEO Robert R. Wallace will become executive vice chairman and take a strategic planning role for three years.

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