After fielding competing bids for six months, Ameritrust Corp. agreed Friday to a $1.2-billion merger with rival Cleveland bank Society Corp.
The merger will create the nation's 24th-largest commercial bank, with $26 billion in assets and 500 offices in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut and Texas.
The hookup is the latest in a series of mergers that have united some of the country's most powerful banks.
Ameritrust, the nation's 56th-largest bank with $10.8 billion in assets, holds the biggest share of deposits in Cleveland.
Society, the 41st-biggest bank with $15.4 billion in assets, ranks third in Cleveland.
The takeover saga began in May when National City Corp. of Cleveland offered $870 million for Ameritrust.
A few weeks later, Ameritrust said it would entertain offers from others. Banc One Corp. of Columbus, one of the nation's healthiest banks, made an unspecified bid.
The merger is Society Corp.'s second major acquisition in two years. It acquired troubled Trustcorp Inc. of Toledo in November, 1989.
The merged company will probably cut costs by combining branches. About 1,000 employees could lose their jobs when the consolidation is completed, the banks said.
Ameritrust has about 6,000 employees, Society about 8,000.
Under the agreement, Ameritrust common shareholders get 0.65 of a share of Society common stock for each share of Ameritrust common.
In over-the-counter trading, Society Corp. lost $2.625 per share to $45.375, while Ameritrust fell 37.5 cents to $27.375.