March 21, 2019

Liberty, Simsbury Bank to merge

HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
Liberty Bank's new Middletown headquarters at 245 Long Hill Road.

Middletown's Liberty Bank and Simsbury Bank & Trust, two of central Connecticut's leading community lenders, say they will merge by fall in a $71 million deal.

The larger of the pair, $5.1 billion-asset Liberty will pay $51.32 for each share in SBT Bancorp, Simsbury Bank's $480 million-asset parent. Boards of both companies have greenlighted the combination, which now awaits state and federal bank regulatory approvals, the banks said Thursday.

Liberty's merger plans come barely two weeks after it settled for $15 million federal allegations that it "redlined'' certain neighborhoods and mortgage applicants in its turf, including in Hartford. Liberty did not admit or deny guilt as part of the settlement

Days later, Liberty introduced former Toronto Dominion banker David Glidden as its new CEO, succeeding Chandler Howard, who delayed his year-end 2018 retirement until the redlining charge was resolved.

The merger, Glidden said in a statement, "will expand our presence into new communities in Hartford County, including Avon, Bloomfield, Granby and Simsbury.

SBT CEO Martin J. Geitz, among only a handful of CEOs since the bank opened in 1995, said in a statement that it has "grown to become the leading bank by many measures in the markets we serve and one of the top performing banks in Connecticut."

Last October, Bridgeport super-regional lender People's United Bank paid $544 million to acquire former Farmington Bank.

Liberty was represented by Hartford law firm Cranmore, FitzGerald & Meaney. SBT's adviser was Piper Jaffray & Co., with Hartford's Day Pitney LLP as its legal counsel.

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