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Pilot Bank sells in $96 million deal

Margie Manning



Pilot Bank's St. Petersburg office is at 2180 4th St. N..

One of the largest credit unions in the United States will enter the Tampa-St. Petersburg market with the purchase of Pilot Bancshares.

Lake Michigan Credit Union has a definitive agreement to buy Pilot Bancshares, the holding company for Pilot Bank and National Aircraft Finance Co., in an all-cash deal valued at about $96 million. The boards of directors of both institutions have approved the purchase, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

Pilot Bank, based in Tampa, has about $656 million in assets and six offices, including an office at 2180 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg that opened in 2018. The bank was founded in 1987 and is one of the older locally based community banks in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

Lake Michigan Credit Union, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has about $10.4 billion in assets, 59 branches and more than 500,000 members. The credit union bought another Florida bank, Encore Bank in Naples, in 2018 and currently has 13 branches in southwest Florida.

Roy Hellwege

“Lake Michigan Credit Union reached out to our bank. It met our criteria for our associates, clients, community and shareholders,” said Rita Lowman, president of Pilot Bank.

Roy Hellwege, chairman and CEO of Pilot, will be Central Florida President for Lake Michigan Credit Union. Lowman, a former president of the Florida Bankers Association and current chair of the Outback Bowl board of directors, said she would stay until the sale is completed. Pilot Bank will be rebranded once the deal closes.

“We are pleased that all of our locations will be retained as will the majority of our teams,” Lowman said. “The credit union will offer residential and consumer loans and are pleased with Pilot Bank’s aircraft and SBA products.”

Rita Lowman

Both institutions have a shared philosophy of putting members and customers first,  Sandy Jelinksi, president and CEO of Lake Michigan Credit Union, said in a news release.

“This is another step in our plan to enhance our member value and experience for our many wonderful members that live in or vacation in Florida, including those in this new thriving market, as well as future new members,” Jelinksi said. “The combination of the two operations will further enhance LMCU’s product offerings for our members through Pilot’s aircraft finance business and SBA origination channels, while also adding a strong core deposit base in Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties.”

The deal still requires approval of shareholders of Pilot Bancshares (OTCQX: PLBN). The agreement calls for Lake Michigan Credit Union to pay $6.25 in cash for each outstanding share of Pilot stock and to cash out the outstanding options at Pilot at the difference between the strike price and the per share cash consideration to Pilot shareholders.

Pilot has nearly 15.4 million outstanding shares, according to its OTC listing. The stock closed at $5.25 a share Wednesday, before the deal was announced.

LMCU is being advised by the investment banking firm Donnelly Penman & Partners and the law firm Honigman. Pilot is being advised by the investment banking firm Hovde Group and the law firm Smith Mackinnon.

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