Ford Bank Group, United New Mexico to Merge

Only weeks after arranging the sale of First Gibraltar Bank, Texas banker Gerald Ford has set his sights on building a second southwestern banking empire.

With the backing of financier Ronald Perelman, Mr. Ford built the largest thrift in Texas and then flipped it to BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco. Now he is gearing up to repeat the performance farther west.

A new company, First United Bank Group, will be formed through the merger of Ford Bank Group, Lubbock, and United New Mexico Financial Corp., Albuquerque.

Mr. Ford owns stock in both companies and will become chairman and chief executive of the merged entity.

Largest Independent in Region

The new outfit will control $3.3 billion of assets and operate 80 offices in New Mexico and West Texas. It will be based in Albuquerque, and it will be the largest independently owned banking company in the region.

Larry Willard, president of United New Mexico and designated vice chairman of the new holding company, said First United will be looking to expand its presence in New Mexico and West Texas. He said the company will also be scouting in Arizona and Colorado.

First United would not rule out the possibility of selling out to a larger company later on, Mr. Willard said.

Under the terms of the transaction, Ford Bank shareholders will exchange their securities for about 5.3 million shares in the new company.

United New Mexico shareholders will get roughly 6.3 million shares in the exchange. The book value of the pooled equity is $225 million.

Mr. Willard said the Albuquerque and Lubbock hubs of the new company are too far apart to permit significant cost savings from consolidation.

But eventually, he said, certain back-office and underwriting functions will be centralized in Albuquerque.

The primary competitors of the proposed First United will be St. Louis-based Boatmen's Bancshares Inc., which is buying Albuquerque-based Sunwest Financial Services Inc., and Bank-America Corp., which built a New Mexico franchise through the purchase of failed thrifts.

The president of the new company will be Tom Nichols, who is currently president and chief operating officer of Ford Bank Group.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.