PremierWest Bank's fate to be decided Feb. 19

That's the date of the company's special shareholders meeting

PremierWest Bancorp said Thursday its previously announced special shareholders meeting, deciding the fate of Medford-based PremierWest Bank, will be Tuesday, Feb. 19.

The holding company announced a special meeting would be held at Rogue Valley Country Club in December, but didn't set a specific date.

PremierWest announced on Oct. 29 its board had approved a proposal by Starbuck Bancshares to acquire PremierWest for $1.65 per share as well as paying off its $41.4 million TARP Capital Purchase Program debt to the U.S. Treasury.

PremierWest spelled out the details of the deal and the activity leading up to the deal last month in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If a majority of PremierWest shareholders approve the plan, the bank's Oregon and Northern California offices will become AmericanWest Bank branches later this year.

Georges St. Laurent, PremierWest's largest shareholder and board member, made public his dissent over the deal shortly after the acquisition agreement was announced.

Other shareholders have publicly and privately said they would vote against the proposal as well.

The company said it plans to mail proxy statements to shareholders the middle of next week.

PremierWest Bank was created in May 2000 when Bank of Southern Oregon and Douglas National Bank were merged. The company grew rapidly, adding Timberline Community Bank of Yreka with its eight Northern California branches in April 2001. In January 2004, PremierWest moved farther south, acquiring Mid Valley Bank, based in Red Bluff, with offices in Shasta, Tehama and Butte counties. It expanded again in January 2008, swallowing Stockmans Bank in the Sacramento area.

By the last acquisition, however, the real estate bubble had burst and the company lost money for 15 straight quarters before recording its first profitable reporting period last summer.

In July 2009, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. labeled PremierWest Bank a "troubled institution."

In announcing the deal in October, PremierWest executives said the move was the best for shareholders.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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