First Merchants closes $49M acquisition of Community Bank

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Muncie-based First Merchants Corp. has closed its acquisition of Noblesville-based Community Bancshares in a deal valued at $49 million, the companies recently announced.

The move gives First Merchants, the holding company for First Merchants Bank, about $5.9 billion in assets. That makes it the second-largest Indiana-based bank by assets behind Evansville-based Old National Bancorp., which has about $11.2 billion.

Community Bancshares is the parent of Community Bank, which has about a dozen banking offices in the Indianapolis area.

The combined entity has 107 locations in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, officials said, and Community Bank's brand should be integrated by spring 2015.

The merger allows Community Bank customers access to expanded services, officials said, and gives First Merchants a stronger position in areas including affluent Hamilton County.

"With the capital resources and lending capacity that First Merchants provides, it will enable us to focus on growth in the Hamilton County market, the fastest-growing Indiana market," First Merchants CEO Michael C. Rechin in a statement. "We are also excited about the addition of two new communities in Madison County that we don’t currently serve: Summitville and Alexandria."

The merger combined the 10th- and 20th-largest banks operating in the Indianapolis area by deposits, and gives the new entity just over 3 percent of the region's market share, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Community Bank's CEO Charles Crow, President Larry Riggs and Executive Vice President Russell Freed will join the First Merchants management team as part of the merger.

"I will stay through 2015," Crow said in a statement. "If they want me to stay after that … well, I'll just have to see how I feel. I'm 72, and although I feel great now, you just don’t know."

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