People - May 2007

CEO doubles assets with urge to merge
By Chris Roush

Robert Lowe didn't know for a while what his company's name would be, but he could bank on one thing: It would double its assets. Lowe will be CEO of NewBridge Bank, formed by the merger of his LSB Bancshares Inc., based in Lexington, and FNB Financial Services Corp., based in Greensboro. The companies unveiled the $125 million deal, expected to close Sept. 30, in February but didn't settle on a name until April.

NewBridge, based in Greensboro, will have 700 employees, 42 branches, $2 billion in assets and $1.6 billion in deposits, making it the state's sixth-largest bank. He hopes to cut $5 million in costs. Lowe, 64, has led LSB Bancshares, the holding company for Lexington State Bank, since 1984. The merger with FNB Financial Services, which operates FNB Southeast banks, was based on the fact that there's no branch overlap. "We basically doubled the size of our institutions immediately. Standing alone, that would take a period of years."

He has spent his career in the industry, having grown up in a banking family. Has father was an executive with Whiteville-based United Carolina Bancshares. His brother, Vincent, was CEO of BB&T, then based in Wilson and now in Winston-Salem, from 1982 until his death in 1989. A son is a commercial lender for BB&T in Asheville, and his daughter worked for Bank of America in Charlotte.

Lowe, who grew up in Chadbourn, says a banking career was no certainty when he got a bachelor's in economics from UNC Chapel Hill in 1965. Still, he enter-ed a management-trainee program at State-Planters Bank & Trust in Richmond, Va. He left for Lexing-ton State Bank in 1970 because his wife is from the region. LSB Bancshares was created in 1983. It went public in August 1985.

FNB CEO Pressley Ridgill, 54, will be president of NewBridge and has been designated as Lowe's successor, though no timetable has been set. He and Lowe knew each other, though not well, before the merger. Ridgill says Lowe quickly won his trust. "He was always looking out for the best interests of the combined companies. That's one of the most important characteristics when you're dealing with people's money."