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Commercial Federal to acquire AmerUs

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

It should be business as usual for AmerUs Bank customers, even though the bank's parent company is negotiating a deal to sell the banks to Commercial Federal Corporation.

Omaha, Neb.-based Commercial Federal Feb. 12 entered into a definitive stock purchase agreement to acquire AmerUs Bank, a Des Moines, Iowa-based wholly owned subsidiary of the AmerUs Group Co.

The deal, set to close in the third quarter of 1998, would result in the AmerUs Banks being merged into Commercial Federal Bank, according to information released by AmerUs and Commercial Federal.

Lee Griffin, executive vice president of AmerUs Bank, said customers in Springfield should not notice any differences in their banking services over the next couple of months, and that new signs, forms and documents are not likely to appear before then.

AmerUs has four banks in Springfield and 27 employees. Those employees are not likely to see a change soon, either, Griffin said.

"Every employee will be offered the opportunity to continue on as an employee for Commercial Federal. We realize that customers do business with people they know. It's important to us and to Commercial Federal that the customers can continue to do business with the people they know," Griffin said.

The merger with Commercial Federal is a "good marriage" for AmerUs, Griffin said, because a number of the banks' services complement each other. AmerUs was attractive to Commercial Federal because it took that bank into new markets, gave it greater access and penetration into some markets, and brought along supermarket banking, which Commercial Federal is not involved in, Griffin said.

Missouri was among the three states in which Commercial Federal did not have a presence. The other two were Minnesota and South Dakota, Griffin said.

In addition to the banking business, the AmerUs Group is also involved in real estate (it is the owner of Carol Jones, Realtors, in Springfield, and some Iowa real estate ventures), has some title companies and supports a life insurance operation, Griffin said. The AmerUs Group is part of the umbrella company called AmerUs Life Holdings.

Commercial Federal will add some features for commercial customers to what AmerUs offers, Griffin said.

"On the consumer/retail side, Commercial Federal offers as good or better products as AmerUs. They also have a strong background in commercial checking and lending, and could add some features for our customers in that area," Griffin said.

The total purchase consideration for Commercial Federal will be $200.9 million. AmerUs has 47 retail banks in six states. Its 15 wholesale lending offices are to be retained by AmerUs and folded into a new company to be headed by AmerUs Bank's current president, Marcia Hanson, Griffin said.

"The wholesale lending business is different from retail banking and because of its uniqueness will not be part of the sale," Griffin said.

The nearest AmerUs wholesale lending offices to Springfield are in St. Louis and Overland Park, Kan.

AmerUs Bank will add its $1.5 billion in assets to Commercial Federal's $7.2 billion. Commercial Federal is also set to acquire two other Iowa banks: Liberty Financial Corporation, based in Des Moines, and Perpetual Midwest Financial, based in Cedar Rapids, Griffin said.

The trend toward larger banks will continue as it always has, Griffin said, but community banks will also be a big part of the banking picture.

"The trend line toward regionalization and nationalization will continue, but you'll also have niche markets, strong community banks. In Springfield you have several strong community banks," Griffin said.

AmerUs Bank has a total of about 500 employees nationwide and has traditional full-service branch offices in Springfield and in Ames, Clive, Des Moines, Indianola, Marion, Urbandale and West Des Moines, Iowa. It has supermarket branch offices in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Communercial Federal has 115 branches in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa.

The merger is subject to regulatory approval through the Office of Thrift Supervision since AmerUs is a thrift-chartered bank. Griffin said he expects that review to take a couple of months.

"We're very excited about this opportunity for our bank and our customers, and look forward to what new services this merger can bring for them," Griffin said.

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