Atlanta-Area Merger To Create $900M Bank

Two Atlanta-area banking companies, First Sterling Banks Inc. of Kennesaw, Ga., and Main Street Banks Inc. of Covington, plan to combine as a $900 million-asset company.Their merger-of-equals deal was announced Wednesday and is expected to close in June. First Sterling would exchange 1.01 of its shares for each share of privately held Main Street, in a transaction worth about $91.2 million.

Main Street shareholders would own 63% of the new company, which would use the First Sterling name and be based in its hometown.

Robert R. Fowler, Main Street's chairman and chief executive officer, would be chairman of the new company. Edward C. Milligan, First Sterling's president and CEO, would retain those titles.

The new company would have eight board members - four from each bank - and operate 25 branches in seven counties.

- Matt Andrejczak

Growing Illinois Bank Issues $6M of Stock

Wintrust Financial Corp. of Lake Forest, Ill., has sold $6 million of new common stock to raise capital for continued internal expansion.The $1.6 billion-asset company, which operates six banks in high-income retail markets near Chicago, said on Nov. 24 that it had completed the sale of 352,942 shares at market price to private investors. Wintrust's shares were trading at $16.3125 at midday Thursday.

Wintrust, which sold $31 million of preferred stock a year ago, tried to sell as little new stock as possible this time around because the market has battered bank shares in recent months, said Edward J. Wehmer, the company's president and chief executive officer.

But he said some additional capital was required to continue the eight-year-old company's fast growth.

Its assets at the end of the third quarter were 26% higher than the $1.2 billion of a year earlier.

Its return on equity in the third quarter was 12.5%.

"We didn't go overboard with the sale" and will probably need more capital later, Mr. Wehmer said. "But we'll hopefully be able to get that done in a more favorable market. It's important for us to keep growing."

- Craig Woker

Ex-Banker Admits $18M Embezzlement

A former Alabama bank executive pleaded guilty this week to embezzling almost $18 million from Citizens Bank of Fayette over seven years, the Birmingham News reported.Robert Wilson Humber, 50, had been accused of wiring the money out of the $142 million-asset bank into his personal accounts at Amsouth Bank in Birmingham, Ala.

Mr. Humber, who had been a vice president at Citizens, pleaded guilty to 83 charges, ranging from bank fraud to filing false income tax returns, according to the news report.

He covered up the theft by destroying records of wire transfers and borrowing $8.1 million to keep the Citizens Bank accounts balanced, the news report said.

A U.S. assistant attorney told the newspaper that Mr. Humber could face up to seven years and 10 months without parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17.

Mr. Humber's attorney, Brett Bloomston, was not available for comment.

The federal government is trying to recover the stolen money by seizing Mr. Humber's property and cash holdings.

- Craig Woker

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