stock of Oklahoma rival Liberty Bancorp. Tulsa-based BOK, owner of Bank of Oklahoma and the biggest banking company in the state, bought a 5.3% stake in Oklahoma City-based Liberty, the second-biggest bank in the state. BOK is seeking permission from the Federal Reserve to increase the position to 9.9%. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, BOK said it purchased the stock for investment purposes and has no plans to buy more than 10%. James B. White, chief financial officer for BOK, said the Tulsa company bought the stock from a single investor in a private transaction. He said the availability of the stock for a single purchase was a primary reason for the deal. "In smaller amounts it would not have been feasible," he said. The seller was a partnership managed by Robert E. Torray, a Maryland investor who is the second-largest shareholder of Liberty, after the Kirkpatrick family of Oklahoma. Following the sale, Torray will control 15% of Liberty. Mr. Torray said he wouldn't have sold the stock, but some partners wanted cash instead of stock when the partnership proceeds were distributed. Liberty officials declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing shareholder actions. BOK said it has no plans to seek a merger with Liberty. Even if it did, however, there would be serious legal obstacles. Oklahoma is one of the least concentrated banking markets in the country, and state law prohibits a single company from owning more than 11% of deposit market share. BOK already has an 8% market share. Liberty has just under 7%. "The simple fact is that we would be unable to consummate a merger," said BOK's Mr. White. BOK has been on an acquisition drive, trying to beef up its retail franchise and reduce its reliance on corporate banking in the state's two largest cities. The $4 billion-asset Bank of Oklahoma has bought three community banks in the past year. Mr. White said the 11% market share cap "could conceivably come into play for us. There are possible acquisitions in the state that could get us up to the limit. But as a practical matter, I would say that's unlikely."
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