PremierWest buys California business

PremierWest Bancorp, parent of PremierWest Bank, said Monday it has agreed to buy Stockmans Financial Group and Stockmans Bank, in a cash-and-stock deal worth about $91.1 million.

The combined organization will grow to 45 branch offices with assets of $1.5 billion. The deal, which needs both regulatory and shareholder approval, will extend the Medford-based bank holding company's presence south of Sacramento for the first time. Stockmans' 70 employees will boost PremierWest's total employment to 560.

PremierWest Bancorp Chief Executive Officer John Anhorn said migration from Southern California and the Bay Area continues to fuel growth in the region surrounding Sacramento.

"A lot of people and companies are moving there for the quality of life," Anhorn said. "It was a natural fit for us because they do the same type of banking as we do. They answer their phones and get involved with their customers."

Anhorn said he expected the deal to close in early January 2008. Stockmans Financial Group shareholders will receive about 5.4 million PremierWest common shares and about $22.8 million in cash. The addition of the offices in Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, Rocklin and Natomas will make PremierWest the 14th largest bank in the four-county area — Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and Sutter — surrounding the California capital city.

PremierWest Bank President Jim Ford said Stockmans Bank offices will continue operating under that name. The Medford company said it expects the merger to add to earnings per share in the first full year of operations after closing.

Stockmans Bank, with assets of $380 million, began in 1933 as California Livestock Production Association in San Francisco. It moved to Sacramento in 1963 and then to Elk Grove in 1981. The association organized Stockmans Bank of Commerce in 1991 and immediately combined with the existing bank. The name was changed to Stockmans Bank in 1997.

"They do very little mortgage business and have one investment officer," Ford said. "It's our intention to expand on that."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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