Compton-led Great American Bank to purchase Lawrence-based University National Bank; this will leave one locally owned bank

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Great American Bank, located on the ground floor of the Lofts building at 888 New Hampshire Street, is pictured on Sept. 17, 2021.

The two last locally owned Lawrence banks have reached a deal to become one.

Great American Bank, which is led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton, has signed a deal to purchase The University National Bank, which is led by longtime Lawrence banker Todd Sutherland.

Both banks are headquartered in Lawrence, which is really a rarity as several longtime locally owned banks such as Douglas County Bank and Peoples Bank have been bought by regional banking companies in the last decade or so. According to FDIC data, Great American Bank and The University National Bank are the last two banking institutions headquartered in Lawrence.

A need for size in the banking industry — where the total number of deposits and assets dictates how large of loans you can make — have led to the consolidation with larger regional banks. But Compton told me he saw an opportunity to increase the size of Great American Bank while still keeping the operations local. The deal with University National would add nearly $92 million in new assets to Great American, if federal regulators approve the merger. Approval is expected in the next 60 to 90 days.

“I think it will be a perfect fit,” Compton said. “It allows us to compete with some of the larger scale banks, and that is very important.”

After the merger, Great American will have assets of about $347 million. That’s up from about $30 million when Compton got into the Lawrence banking business in 2006. That’s when Compton led a group of investors to buy what was then known as Lawrence Bank. That same group of investors is largely still together — the current board includes Lawrence residents Justin Anderson, Les Dreiling, Jeff Hatfield and Dan Watkins — and has pursued a strategy of expansion.

After buying Lawrence Bank, the Compton-led bank holding company also acquired locations in Kansas City, Kan., De Soto and Lake Lotawana, Mo. Eventually, it rebranded the banks to the Great American Bank name.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The University National Bank, near Bob Billings and Kasold, is pictured on Sept. 17, 2021.

Once the deal is complete, The University National Bank name will be retired. But Compton said University’s sole branch — located at 1400 Kasold Drive — will remain open. Once the deal is finalized, however, the branch will be rebranded to Great American Bank. Compton said Great American Bank does plan to close its branch at 3500 Clinton Parkway, which is in front of the Hy-Vee grocery store, once the deal is finalized. Great American will keep its headquarters and main bank location at Eighth and New Hampshire streets in downtown Lawrence.

Dreiling will continue to serve as president and chief executive officer of the combined operation, Compton said. Dreiling is a longtime Lawrence banker who was with Lawrence Bank before Compton’s group purchased it, and also had once worked with Sutherland and The University National Bank.

“Les was my first banker in 1982,” Compton said. “One hundred percent of the credit for the growth of the bank goes to Les and his staff.”

Compton said the pending deal included the purchase of all of Sutherland’s ownership interest in the bank, but that Sutherland has agreed to remain with the banking organization for a time to help with the transition in ownership.

“Everybody who has a relationship with University National knows Todd, and it was important for us to ask Todd to stay on for a period of time,” Compton said. “He can really assist us.”

Sutherland, who is chairman and president of The University National Bank, said he was pleased with the deal struck with Great American Bank.

“Combining with the only other independent bank in Lawrence ensures that our customers will continue to receive the same local service while also receiving competitive products and services provided by a larger community bank,” he said in a statement.

As for future plans for the bank, Compton said it has other growth initiatives in mind. Construction is underway on a new bank facility at 36th and Broadway in Kansas City to help the bank become a larger presence in that market.

But Compton — who generally is considered one of the largest real estate developers in Lawrence with apartment holdings and a commercial construction company — said he planned to keep a focus on Lawrence because he understood the importance of having good banks to work with in a community.

“It is called customer service and being able to make a decision locally by the owners of the bank,” Compton said. “We really do believe we can serve our customers better because we are a locally owned community bank. That can really make the process simpler and quicker.”


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