The chief executive of First Bancorp in Troy, N.C., left last week, apparently over the question of selling the company.

"There were just some differences at the bank between me and some of the board members," said the former CEO, James A. Gunter.

Observers speculated that at least part of the board wants to see the bank sold, whereas Mr. Gunter wanted it to grow as an independent.

"It would appear that Jim had some pretty ambitious ideas on how it should be grown, but there were those on the board who wanted a quicker solution - like selling," said a person familiar with the situation.

The $292 million-asset bank's stock activity appears to support that theory. Three weeks ago, on the day after Mr. Gunter first announced he was resigning, the stock jumped $7 to $29. Since then, it has bounced around in the high 20s. Well over 13,000 shares traded Thursday, more than six times the stock's average daily trading volume.

Analysts said management has in place a long-term strategic growth plan, but the board may have other ideas. Assets grew by 14% as of June 30, in part through an acquisition.

Mr. Gunter, 51, came to First Bank, the company's sole banking unit, as president in 1991 after 20 years with what is now NationsBank Corp. Early in 1993, he was promoted to president and chief executive of the holding company. James H. Garner, formerly executive vice president at First Bancorp, has been named his successor.

"It was a good tenure," said Mr. Gunter. "But life goes on."

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