George Gleason of Bank of the Ozarks called his last deal a dress rehearsal for open-bank transactions. It is now opening night — for him and perhaps other buyers.

The Little Rock, Ark., company (OZRK) announced late Thursday it had agreed to buy the $857 million-asset First National Bank of Shelby in North Carolina for $67.8 million in cash and stock. In December it acquired the $170 million-asset Genala Banc, ending a nine-year absence from live transactions and a spree of seven consecutive acquisitions of failed banks in recent years.

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