BRADENTON — For the third time in his career, longtime area banker Jim Kuhlman has sold another bank that he led to a rapid rise in assets.
This time it's Bradenton-based Premier Community Bank of Florida.
Birmingham, Ala.-based National Commerce Corp., parent company of National Bank of Commerce, bought Premier in a deal, that if it closed March 20, would be worth about $50 million and just under two times book value. The value is subject to change, based on NCC’s stock price, before the acquisition closes, which officials from both banks expect to happen in July. At the current projected sale price, Kuhlman says investors in Premier Community, when the bank raised money two years ago, would have doubled their investment.
After the merger, Premier will operate as Premier Community Bank of Florida, a division of National Bank of Commerce. The bank’s logo and signs will remain the same, and Kuhlman, in an interview with the Business Observer, says he signed a five-year contract to remain with the bank.
'This is the right deal, at the right time with the right people.' Jim Kuhlman, Premier Community Bank
"This is the right deal, at the right time, with the right people," says Kuhlman, president and CEO of Premier. “I’ve known the (NBC executives) for a long time. They are absolutely in sync with the community bank lifestyle.”
National Bank of Commerce already has a presence on the west coast of Florida, in addition to other parts of the state. It acquired Trinity, Pasco County,-based Patriot Bank for $31.3 million in August 2017, for an entry into the Tampa Bay market. Also in August, the bank closed on a deal to buy Jacksonville-based FirstAtlantic Bank, which has eight offices in Northeast Florida.
The deal for Premier was driven not only by geographic markets, but because of Premier’s lucrative niche in handling banking for condo associations. Kuhlman has been successful in that area with other banks he has run, and now, with condo association clients in Florida and South Carolina, he targets national expansion for that service.
To get that kind of expansion quickly, Kuhlman says he and Premier’s board faced two choices: raise capital or find a buyer that could both inject capital and maintain the bank’s culture. With the NBC deal, Premier went with option two. Option one, says Kuhlman, would have taken considerably longer and the cost of raising the capital would have diluted the bank’s earnings.
Kuhlman says he has the NBC executives for some 20 years, going back to when the Alabama bank a was a correspondent bank for another institution Kuhlman founded, Venice-based Premier Community Bank, handling some loans and lines of credit. “If they didn’t pass the good guy test, this deal never would have happened,” says Kuhlman.
The feeling on the NBC side is mutual. “We have known Jim Kuhlman and followed his career for several years, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with him and his team to build a great company together,” President and CEO of National Commerce Corp. and National Bank of Commerce Richard Murray IV says in a statement announcing the sale.
Kuhlman has been a fixture in community banking in the area for several decades. He founded the Venice Premier Community Bank in 1996, and led the group of investors who sold it at 4.3 times book value to Montgomery, Ala.-based Colonial Bank in 2004. He later founded Florida Shores Bank, which Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Bank bought in 2014 in a $48.8 million deal, that had a lower book to value ratio than NBC’s purchase of Premier.
Kuhlman was named CEO of Bradenton-based Premier, then based in Parrish, Manatee County, and named 1st Manatee Bank, in May 2016. The bank had $144 million in assets when it brought on Kuhlman. As of mid-March, it had surpassed $244 million in assets, says Kuhlman. It has offices in Bradenton, Parrish and Venice.
The boards of National Commerce Corp., National Bank of Commerce and Premier Community Bank approved the transaction. The deal is now subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and approval by Premier’s shareholders.