James J. Giancola, famed in midwestern banking circles for his strong personality and dedication to dealmaking, knew it was time for CNB Bancshares to be sold.

Completing 21 acquisitions in less than seven years, CNB's president and chief executive officer had built the Evansville, Ind., holding company's assets to $7.2 billion.

He bagged his biggest prey, $1.1 billion-asset Pinnacle Financial of St. Joseph, Mich., last year. Since then Mr. Giancola had stayed on the hunt, but the number of potential targets in his market area was dwindling, and insiders said his brashness could work against him in some negotiations.

On Wednesday the 51-year-old New York native and Harvard University graduate was on the receiving end of Fifth Third Bancorp's $2.1 billion acquisition announcement.

Not only would CNB shareholders get shares of Fifth Third-one of the best-performing bank stocks-but Mr. Giancola will stay on to run Fifth Third's Indiana operations.

The two banks "have very similar cultures that espouse the value of aggressive sales, hard work, and teamwork," Mr. Giancola said. "Fifth Third Bank has an excellent track record of delivering shareholder value, integrating acquisitions successfully, and is renowned for its operating discipline."

Analysts said Mr. Giancola will probably not have any trouble answering to Fifth Third CEO George A. Schaefer Jr. Mr. Giancola "is a big boy," said David B. Moore, a bank analyst with Podesta & Co. in Chicago. "I don't anticipate any problems."

Mr. Giancola entered the ranks of bank executives with Gainer Bank of Merrilville, Ind., in the northwest corner of the state. Eight years later he sold Gainer to NBD Bancorp of Detroit, now a part of Chicago-based Bank One Corp., for $168 million.

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