Happy again: Albemarle First finds taker


Having been burned in a check-kiting scheme and then left at the altar when shareholders of Millennium Bankshares nixed a proposed merger, Albemarle First Bank has finally found a taker. Premier Community Bankshares Inc. and Albemarle First have entered into a "definitive agreement" to merge in a transaction valued at $29 million, according to representatives of both institutions.

Albemarle First, keeping its name, will become a division of Rockingham Heritage Bank, a Premier subsidiary. The resulting institution will have combined assets of over $800 million in a network of 22 branches in Virginia and West Virginia.

Donald L. Unger, Premier CEO, says, "The Charlottesville market has been a strategic priority for Premier, and with Albemarle First Bank, we have found an excellent partner."

Rockingham CEO John K. Stephens has high hopes for the new venture. "We believe that, by combining our retail banking model with Albemarle First's market knowledge and lending expertise, Albemarle First can become the premier community bank in the Charlottesville area."

The merger came as a relief to Albemarle First shareholders, who'd watched the proposed sale to Millennium fall through in November and their shares plunge 23 percent. It was a blow coming so soon after Albemarle First was bilked out of $2.4 million in a check-kiting scheme in 2003.

Albemarle First CEO Thomas M. Boyd Jr. says that joining with Premier will give his bank "greater access to capital to support our growth plans in the greater Charlottesville area."

The merger, expected to close in the second quarter of 2006, has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is subject to the approval of Albemarle First's shareholders and customary regulatory approvals.

Founded in 1998, Albemarle First now has three offices including this Downtown Mall branch. All will soon become a division of Rockingham Heritage Bank.