Benton Bank Whose Former President Briefly Disappeared Is Sold

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Benton, Tn., bank whose former president briefly disappeared last month has been sold.

First Volunteer Corporation has entered into an agreement to purchase Benton Banking Company.

Jimmy Goddard, who was finally located at Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, N.C., has been replaced as the bank president.

The six-branch bank has deposits of $95 million and 45 employees in Polk and Bradley counties.

The purchase also includes T.B. Isbell Insurance Agency and Benton Banking Mortgage Company, which were owned by Benton Banking Company.

The purchase is set to close on Dec. 31, pending final regulatory and Benton Bancshares shareholder approval.

First Volunteer Bank is a $548 million financial institution with 19 branch offices throughout eight counties in Eastern and Middle Tennessee. First Volunteer Corporation, including the Insurance Agency, has 240 employees.

“I am excited to make this announcement since First Volunteer Bank and Benton Banking Company share a passion for delivering superior customer service and for knowing our customers,” stated First Volunteer Bank President and CEO Patti Steele. “Officers and employees of the local bank will continue in their current positions, serving their customers just as they have for the last 100 years. Nothing changes but the ownership,” she said, stressing that all accounts are secure and the bank will continue to be a good corporate citizen.

Mike Whitmire, who was appointed Friday as interim president of Benton Banking Company, replacing Jimmy Goddard, said, “This is a real win-win arrangement for Benton Banking Company and First Volunteer Bank. We are very pleased to have this opportunity to work together.”

Vice President Joe Waters said, “We have spent a considerable amount of time with the folks from First Volunteer and feel that with their banking expertise and excess capital positions, it will allow us to offer many additional services to our customers and grow to be an even more influential part of Benton and the Polk County market.”

Ms. Steele said First Volunteer has been banking the Etowah and Delano markets for a number of years and enjoys working with their customers in McMinn and Polk counties. “We really feel this opportunity to bring additional services to the entire region will be good for First Volunteer and Benton Banking Company customers.”

She said, “Benton Banking Company has a strong customer base and has been a good, solid bank for a long time. With 48% market share of all deposits in Polk County, it’s obvious that the customers are loyal to their bank. This is our kind of market,” she said, adding, “It fits our company very well and we’re excited about this opportunity.”

“We anticipate a smooth and successful integration of Benton Banking Company into the First Volunteer Bank family in 2008,” Ms. Steele added.

First Volunteer’s original charter, for Marion Trust and Banking, dates back to 1904. Through the years, it has purchased banks and opened branches in other counties and became First Volunteer Corporation in 1999.


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