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Sale still waiting on regulators

Level One's Fehring assures money isn't the issue

April 10, 2013 - Still waiting on approval from federal and state regulators.

That's the status of the pending sale of Oxford Bank, a 129-year-old financial institution, to the Farmington Hills-based Level One Bank, founded in 2007.

"I wish I had some new news for you," said Patrick Fehring, president and CEO of Level One. "We're still engaged in the process of regulatory approval . . . Hopefully, we will have some good news shortly."

When asked if he can give a more specific time frame than "shortly," Fehring replied, "I wouldn't want to speculate. That's probably about as certain as I can be."

Back when plans for the sale were first announced in September 2012, Fehring expected the deal would be finalized by the first quarter of 2013.

In November, Oxford Bank President/CEO James Bess told the Leader, "I think Level One anticipates a close maybe the first week in January of 2013."

Now, it's April and both banks are still waiting for the deal to close, while Oxford Bank stockholders wait for their buy-out checks to arrive.

Back in November, a majority of Oxford Bank shareholders voted to sell all 1,156,690 of the institution's outstanding shares to Level One for $3 each. In essence, Level One is purchasing Oxford Bank and all of its assets for $3.47 million.

The sale must still be approved by three regulatory bodies – the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Michigan Office of Finance and Insurance Regulation, and the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation.

When asked if the transaction has been approved by any of the three bodies, Fehring replied, "We can't comment on any of the individual organizations and where they are in their process.

"All I can share with you is we're working diligently and we're very engaged in the process. It does take a while."

Fehring is hopeful regulatory approval will come soon given on March 23, the Federal Reserve Board approved a $912 million deal by which the Akron, Ohio-based FirstMerit would acquire the Flint-based Citizens Bank.

Shareholders of both banks voted April 5 to approve the sale.

"They (started the regulatory process) about the same time as us, maybe a little earlier," Fehring said.

When asked if that means the Oxford Bank/Level One deal could be next in line, Fehring replied, "The timing would tell us that."

There's been a rumor going around Oxford that the reason the deal hasn't closed is because Level One lacks the funds to pay off Oxford Bank shareholders.

Fehring assured this reporter that's completely false.

"We've got more than adequate capital," he said. "Financially, we're rated (as) a five-star (bank) by the Bauer organization. We're in excellent shape there."

If and when the sale finally does close, all eight Oxford Bank branches would change their name to Level One.

Oxford Bank, which has operated continuously under local ownership and management since 1884 and has the distinction of being the oldest commercial bank in Oakland County, would cease to exist as an independent entity. Its operations would be merged with Level One's existing seven branches.

"We're spending time meeting with (Oxford Bank) employees and looking forward to engaging more with the community in the near future," Fehring said.

"Right now, we're just focused on the future, planning for success and looking forward to meeting people in Oxford."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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