Oklahoma's largest independent bank wants to double in size through a merger of equals or through acquisitions, according to its chief executive, Stanley Lybarger.

BOK Financial Corp. of Tulsa is looking for a merger partner that would significantly increase its size in its home state or in Arkansas, where it has a toehold with a $70 million bank in Fayetteville, Mr. Lybarger said in an interview Monday.

The company also is interested in acquiring a smaller bank in the Dallas market, he said, and would consider buying banks in Kansas or Missouri.

Tulsa oilman George Kaiser owns 79% of $4.2 billion-asset BOK. Since Mr. Kaiser bought the troubled Bank of Oklahoma in 1991, creating BOK, the company has made nine acquisitions, adding $1.25 billion of deposits. It also has bought two trust companies, in Oklahoma and Texas.

While the acquisitions have been funded about evenly through cash and stock, a merger of equals would be the first deal big enough to dilute Mr. Kaiser's ownership stake.

"The long-range game plan has been for Mr. Kaiser to end up with a smaller ownership," said Mr. Lybarger. "The best way to end up with a broader-base ownership is through acquisition."

Mr. Lybarger said the company wants to build its presence in Oklahoma, but he conceded a large merger would be impossible unless the state's 11% limit on deposit market share were rescinded. Bank of Oklahoma holds about 9%, or $3.1 billion, of the state's $34 billion of deposits. Mr. Lybarger said he would appeal to the Oklahoma Legislature if BOK got close to a big merger.

The market share limit would have to be raised to allow BOK's long- rumored takeover of $2.7 billion-asset Liberty Bancorp. of Oklahoma City to take place. Mr. Lybarger said his bank would like to acquire Liberty, which has $2.4 billion of Oklahoma deposits.

But any deal for Liberty would take some doing because the Oklahoma City bank's management has said it doesn't want to sell.

BOK owns 4.8% of Liberty's stock, and it got Federal Reserve approval last September to buy up to 9.9% of its shares. But Mr. Lybarger described the stake as an investment in a strong competitor. His company also owns 6% of the stock of $67 million-asset Security National Bank of Sapulpa in suburban Tulsa.

BOK is hoping to solidify its place as the largest banking company in Oklahoma. Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis is just barely smaller than BOK in the Sooner State, with $4 billion of assets.

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