Cathleen Nash already had a great turnaround story going at Citizens Republic Bancorp, where she led a return to profitability in last year's second quarter after 12 straight quarterly losses. A happy ending presented itself this month, with FirstMerit of Akron, Ohio, agreeing to buy the bank for $912 million.

Cathleen Nash

Nash, Citizens Republic's first female president and CEO, had been promoted to the post from the executive vice president level in early 2009, just as the recession was exacerbating the tough economic conditions that have long persisted in the company's hometown of Flint, Mich. By July 2010, Citizens Republic was operating under a written agreement with regulators, who were concerned about the company's earnings, capital and credit quality.

But the company regained its footing a year later, returning to profitability and pulling off a successful reverse stock split that bolstered its share price and prevented the stock from being delisted. And Nash swiftly, and drastically, altered the firm's risk profile by rolling more than $925 million of stressed assets off the balance sheet in a six-month period.

The written agreement with regulators was lifted in April, paving the way for a sale. The all-stock purchase by FirstMerit would value Citizens at 126% of tangible book.

Nash will work with FirstMerit Chairman, President and CEO Paul Greig during a transition phase, but she told American Banker on Friday that while she is committed to contributing to the integration efforts, she will not be staying with the combined company beyond then.

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