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WAYNE, NJ-Less than a month after it was officially put on the market, NorCrown Bank has a buyer. Valley National Bancorp, a regional bank holding company based here, yesterday agreed to buy its smaller, Livingston-based rival for $141 million.As reported last month, the sale of NorCrown was required by federal regulators in the wake of the guilty pleas tendered by developer Charles Kushner to federal tax and campaign finance charges (for previous story, click here). NorCrown Bank was one of the companies under the umbrella of the Livingston-based Kushner Cos., whose primary holdings include more than 20,000 apartment units and 7.5 million sf of commercial space. Kushner is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 29.”NorCrown and its former chairman have recently been in the news regarding various matters not pertaining to the financial condition of the bank,” says Valley president/CEO Gerald H. Lipkin of the transaction, which is one of several that are expected to result in at least a partial dismantling of Kushner’s empire. “We conducted due diligence, including a review of any possible regulatory problems, and we have achieved the comfort necessary to enter into this transaction.”"This agreement is in the best interest of our depositors, creditors and employees,” says NorCrown chairman Morton Dear, who succeeded Kushner in that role following his guilty pleas. “Valley is focused in our geographic area, and we know the transition will be seamless.”The $141-million sale price will be paid 50% in cash and 50% in Valley common stock, under the terms of the sale agreement. Valley expects to issue 2.5 million common shares in a private placement to NorCrown shareholders at an exchange ratio to be determined by Valley’s average stock price prior to closing.The purchase price amounts to about three times the book value for NorCrown, with Valley recording approximately $98 million in goodwill and core deposit intangibles. The purchase price is also nearly 20 times NorCrown’s 2003 earnings after adjusting for almost $2 million in non-recurring expenses. The company’s 15-branch operation has assets of about $600 million.Officials of Valley, which currently has 133 branches in northern and central New Jersey and assets of about $10.6 billion, expect the deal to close early next year, contingent on regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of certain closing conditions.

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