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Cadence CEO to retire

February 17, 2011

Cadence CEO Lewis F. Mallory Jr. will conclude a nearly 45-year career with the company after the financial institution’s sale is complete, bank officials said in a statement Thursday.
He first joined National Bank of Commerce – which became Cadence Bank in recent years – upon graduation from Mississippi State University in 1965.
He first became its president in 1974, then took over as CEO in 1978.
He assumed the chairmanship, retaining the CEO title, in 1993.
“I am honored to have served as Cadence’s Chairman and CEO for the past 17 years,” Mallory said in the statement.
During his time as CEO, Cadence grew from about $100 million in assets to more than $2 billion in holdings, developing from its original market in the Golden Triangle and other parts of northeast Mississippi into Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.
Mallory was also at the helm during the recent economic downturn and efforts to stabilize its operations.
The bank’s stock lost value, and in January 2009, the financial institution sold $44 million in preferred stock to the U.S. Treasury.
Conditions were looking up as recently as early in 2010, when Mallory reported that the bank’s credit quality had improved its “credit quality since last year which was highlighted by our lowest provision for loan losses in over two years,” he said last year.
Also in 2010’s first quarter, the banking institution cut or reshaped up to 15 jobs after a review of operations.
However, the bank faced a deadline in late September to meet certain capital funding requirements.
Before the end of the month, the financial institution struck a merger deal with in-state bank TrustMark.
Several weeks later, Cadence formally backed out of its arrangement with TrustMark to pursue a contract with Texas-based investment firm Community Bancorp, known as CBC.
“We all know the last two years have been difficult,” Mallory said in a letter to Cadence employees dated Thursday. “Everyone has been tested, and I believe we are about to emerge from all of this as a more seasoned, stronger work group that is ready to get back to doing some positive banking for a change. That will be both fun and productive.”
Mallory said the decision to retire is in accordance with a plan developed three years ago, but said “the time is so right to begin a newly energized Cadence with fresh management and a strong capital position to support new growth and vitality.”
He thanked his colleagues for their hard work and support.
“I believe Cadence is poised to move forward again, and I will be viewing our progress as a committed supporter,” Mallory said in the letter, in which he also indicated he would retain an office in the bank but would no longer be a Cadence employee.
In Thursday’s statement, bank officials say Cadence President Mark Abernathy will take over as CEO.
“Mark has assumed increasing responsibilities with Cadence in recent years and was responsible for coordinating the transition that precedes our merger with CBC,” Mallory said in his letter.
CBC President Paul Murphy will assume the role of Cadence’s chairman.
“We are going to have a strong partner in CBC and a lot of capital,” Mallory said in the letter.
Closure on the transaction between Cadence and CBC will take place March 4, Murphy said earlier Thursday before Mallory went public with his retirement plans.
Though officials initially targeted March 1 as the closing date, Murphy said: “We just needed an extra few days to complete” the transaction.
Six months is about the standard timeline for such a deal to take place, and “we’re in line with that expectation,” Murphy said.
Shareholders will be contacted by the transfer agent shortly after the closing, and “they’ll be providing checks shortly thereafter” to those who hold Cadence stock, Murphy said.
The deal will ultimately make Cadence a wholly-owned subsidiary of Community Bancorp and give CBC – set up to obtain, stabilize and run U.S. banks which have failed or are in distress.
In the statement on Mallory’s retirement, Murphy said:
“I look forward to joining forces with Cadence and Mark Abernathy. Lewis Mallory is a man of great character and integrity and I have tremendous respect for him. Lewis has been the driving energy in building Cadence and the employees and customers have a lot to look forward to as we build on his legacy.”
After the sale is complete, “Cadence will continue with its existing name, charter and employee team to serve its customers across the Company’s five-state market. I am proud to continue the 124-year old banking heritage and traditions of Cadence Bank,” Murphy said.

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