BancorpSouth in Tupelo, Miss., announced Thursday that its longtime leader Aubrey Patterson plans to relinquish his duties as chief executive in 2013.

The $13.3 billion-asset company (BXS) said in press release that its board has formed a search committee and has retained headhunting firm Spencer Stuart to help it find a new CEO. It said it plans to have the leadership transition completed by its annual meeting in April 2013.

"I have every confidence that this transition process will be orderly and successful and that it will result in a new leader for BancorpSouth with the experience, skills and vision to build on our strong franchise and history," Patterson, 69, said in the press release.

Patterson has been a member of the company's leadership team for nearly three decades. He served as its president and chief operating officer from 1983 to 1990. He became chief executive in 1990 and chairman in 1991. At that time, the company's assets totaled $1.5 billion. Under his leadership, the company grew from a bank operating solely in Mississippi to a regional bank with branches in nine states.

The company did not say in its release if Patterson would retain his title as chairman.

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