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Jim Ayers to step down as executive chairman at FirstBank

DECEMBER 02, 2020

Joel Stinnett – Nashville Business Journal

Jim Ayers will step down as executive chairman of FirstBank, effective, Jan.1.

One of the titans of Nashville’s banking industry is giving up his seat at the head of the table.

Jim Ayers will step down as executive chairman of the board of directors at FirstBank and its parent company FB Financial Corporation, effective Jan. 1, according to a news release.

Stuart McWhorter, who recently rejoined the bank’s board after leaving for a position in Gov. Bill Lee’s administration, will replace Ayers as chairman. 

Ayers, who owns 29% of the publicly traded lender, has been appointed vice chairman and will keep a board seat. He will continue working at FirstBank (NYSE: FBK), according to the release, “focusing his time calling on customers.”

“Having just celebrated my 77th birthday, I thought this would be a good time to dial back some of my responsibilities to give me more time to spend with my family and on my hobbies,” Ayers said in the release. “The bank is strong, we have excellent leadership at the top with Chris Holmes as president and CEO, and we have a strong and diverse board. I can go hunting and fishing, and that’s what I intend to do.”

The move signals a changing of the guard in Nashville’s booming banking industry. Ayers has been chairman of the company since he purchased it in 1984. At that time, FirstBank was a small lender in rural West Tennessee called Farmers State Bank with $14 million in assets.

In 2016, Ayers was named executive chairman as he took the bank public on the New York Stock Exchange, in what was the largest banking initial public offering in Tennessee history, according to the release.

Today — after finalizing its $611 million acquisition of Franklin-based Franklin Synergy Bank (NYSE: FSB) in August — FirstBank has grown to 80 branches across four states with approximately $11 billion in assets.

McWhorter first joined FirstBank’s board in 2006 before leaving to become commissioner of finance and administration for the state of Tennessee 12 years later. McWhorter, who is co-founder and chairman of Clayton Associates, rejoined FirstBank’s board last month.

“Jim Ayers has been and will continue to be an enormous presence at FirstBank,” Holmes said in the release. “In electing an independent board chairman, we were guided by the company’s commitment to the highest standards of corporate governance. With Stuart McWhorter’s experience in business and leadership and his 12 years on the company’s board, he is an ideal chairman for us, and we expect the transition to be seamless as we move into the new calendar year.”

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