Montana company plans to acquire Grand Junction-based bank

Pete Waller
Pete Waller

Phil Castle,  The Business Times

A regional bank holding company headquartered in Montana has announced plans to acquire a Grand Junction-based bank that has operated in Western Colorado for more than a century.

Glacier Bancorp has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire First National Bank of the Rockies in a transaction valued at nearly $30.3 million in cash and stocks. Pending regulatory approval, the deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

Pete Waller, president, chief executive officer and chairman of FNBR, characterized the acquisition as “a marriage made in heaven, from a banking perspective.”

Glacier Bancorp will offer the resources and additional products and services of a larger financial institution that will make FNBR more competitive while still allowing local autonomy, Waller said. “It’s just all a win as we see it.”

Mick Blodnick, president and chief executive officer of Glacier Bancorp, stated in a news release the acquisition of FNBR and its 10 locations in Western Colorado enables Glacier to expand in what he considers a desirable market. Grand Junction alone constitutes the largest market between Denver and Salt Lake City.

“FNBR brings to us a sizable community bank with a long history of serving northwestern Colorado. The region offers attractive long-term growth prospects with a solid economic base of energy, agriculture, tourism, mining and health care,” Blodnick said.

Headquartered in Kalispell, Glacier Bancorp operates 13 divisions with banks that serve a total of 72 communities in Montana and Colorado as well as Idaho, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The acquisition of FNBR will mark the 15th for Glacier Bancorp since 2000 and third in the past 15 months.

Waller said FNBR will join the Bank of the San Juans division, which operates two locations in Durango and a third location in Pagosa Springs. 

FNBR originally was chartered in 1904 as the First National Bank of Meeker. Today, FNBR operates four locations in Grand Junction as well as locations in Craig, Hayden, Meeker, Oak Creek, Rangely and Steamboat Springs.

As of March 31, FNBR had total assets of $343 million, gross loans of $132 million and total deposits of $305 million.

With the acquisition, Glacier would become a top-five community bank in Western Colorado with assets of $541 million and move from 64th to 28th in a ranking of deposit market share statewide.

To acquire FNBR, Glacier will pay FNBR Holding Corp. shareholders $16.3 million in cash and nearly 556,000 shares of common stock in Glacier Bancorp, a publicly owned company traded on NASDAQ. As of May 8, the date the acquisition agreement was announced, a share of Glacier stock had a closing price of $25.06, making the stocks worth $13.9 million.

Once the acquisition has closed, FNBR will change its name, Waller said. But staffing and management likely will remain the same. Waller said he’s committed to continue working at the bank.

A number of factors combined to prompt FNBR to look for what Waller termed a “partner” — increased banking regulations that are driving consolidation in the industry, an aging base of shareholders who own the bank and the slow pace of economic recovery in the region following the recession.

Glacier Bancorp provides the regulatory compliance resources that will enable local bankers to focus instead on operations, Waller said. “We’re going to get back into the business of serving our communities.”

The acquisition also will enable FNBR to increase its lending capacity to match the size and terms of loans offered by even its largest competitors, he said.

Moreover, FNBR will expand other products and services it offers customers, Waller added. “It really brings a lot of tools to the table.”