updated 3/3/2011 7:15:57 AM ET 2011-03-03T12:15:57

NEW ORLEANS, March 2, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Executives of Hancock Holding Company (Nasdaq:HBHC) and Whitney Holding Corporation (Nasdaq:WTNY) today announced the appointment of longtime Whitney executive and New Orleans community leader Joseph S. Exnicios as Whitney Bank President, effective upon closing of the Hancock and Whitney merger, which is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval and other conditions to closing. Current Whitney Executive Vice President of Credit Administration Suzanne C. Thomas will continue as Chief Credit Officer of Whitney Bank.





Joseph S. Exnicios




Suzanne C. Thomas




Photos accompanying this release are available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=8827 , http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=8828

Hancock Holding Company President and CEO Carl J. Chaney said, "We enthusiastically support Joe and Suzanne in their anticipated roles of President and Chief Credit Officer, respectively, of the resulting $11.5 billion Whitney Bank headquartered in New Orleans. Both Joe and Suzanne have a long history with the Whitney commercial banking team throughout the five-state Whitney franchise."

Hancock CEO and Chief Operating Officer John M. Hairston added, "Joe has many years of experience in working directly with market presidents throughout Louisiana and Texas. Suzanne is already serving as Chief Credit Officer and will bring the same steady hand to her role in the combined organization. Joe and Suzanne will work together to ensure customers continue to see the same friendly faces with enhanced products and outstanding customer service."

"Joe is the perfect choice to continue representing Whitney Bank as he has for more than 30 years," said John C. Hope, III, Chairman and CEO.  "Joe's commitment to both the Bank and the local community is exemplary, and I wish him well in his new role after the merger."

Exnicios, currently a Whitney senior executive vice president and the bank's Chief Risk Officer, joined Whitney in 1978. He is an alumnus of Brother Martin High School and holds a business administration degree from Louisiana State University and a juris doctor from the Loyola School of Law. Exnicios also graduated from the prestigious Graduate School of Banking of the South, now the Graduate School of Banking at LSU.

Active in many local business and civic organizations, Exnicios is chairman of the board for the Catholic Charities Association of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He is a former board member of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. He serves on the Archbishop's Community Appeal Executive Committee and chaired the 2005 and 2006 campaigns. Exnicios is a past president of the United States Navy League New Orleans Council and a retreat captain for the Manresa House of Retreats. He also serves on the University of New Orleans Foundation Board.

A non-practicing certified public accountant, Exnicios is a member of the Louisiana Certified Public Accountants, Louisiana Bar Association, and New Orleans Board of Trade. Exnicios and his wife, Deborah, have one daughter.

Thomas began her banking career almost 30 years ago at First Virginia Bank. Currently, she is responsible for ensuring the quality of Whitney Bank's loan portfolio as well as establishing and maintaining policies and procedures that support quality loan production.  She oversees a variety of credit management functions, including the review and approval of large commercial credits and monitoring of the overall quality of the loan portfolio.

"Suzanne has been a real asset to Whitney and to this community," said Hope.  "Her knowledge, hard work, and dedication will significantly benefit our combined organization."  

Thomas joined Whitney Bank in 2000 as Senior Vice President in Credit Administration and has led the division as an executive vice president since 2010. Prior to her tenure at Whitney, she was a part of the corporate banking team at First National Bank of Commerce in New Orleans, where she held a number of management positions, including senior vice president.  

Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dominican College and an MBA from the College of William and Mary. She is on the board of the Parkway Partners, the Women's Professional Council, and the Governing Board of the United Way Women's Leadership Council.  Thomas is the past board of trustees chair for the Academy of the Sacred Heart, a past president of the Women's Professional Council, and a past board member of the United Way for Greater New Orleans.

On December 21, 2010, Hancock Holding Company (Nasdaq:HBHC) and Whitney Holding Corporation (Nasdaq:WTNY) entered into a definitive agreement to combine the two banks. Subject to shareholder and regulatory approval and other customary conditions, the merger should be completed during the second quarter of 2011. The combined company will operate as Whitney Bank in Louisiana and Texas and as Hancock Bank in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to build on the brand equity cultivated by both institutions for more than a century.

Important Additional Information

Hancock and Whitney have filed a preliminary joint proxy statement/prospectus and other relevant documents concerning the Merger with the SEC, and will be filing a definitive joint proxy statement/prospectus with the SEC, which will be mailed to Hancock's and Whitney's shareholders. This communication does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or a solicitation of any vote or approval. Hancock and Whitney urge investors to read the definitive joint proxy statement/prospectus when it becomes available and any other documents to be filed with the SEC in connection with the Merger or incorporated by reference in the joint proxy statement/prospectus because they will contain important information.

Investors will be able to obtain these documents free of charge at the SEC's Web site ( www.sec.gov ). In addition, documents filed with the SEC by Hancock will be available free of charge from Paul D. Guichet, Investor Relations at (228) 563-6559. Documents filed with the SEC by Whitney will be available free of charge from Whitney by contacting Trisha Voltz Carlson, Investor Relations at (504) 299-5208.

The directors, executive officers, and certain other members of management and employees of Whitney are participants in the solicitation of proxies in favor of the Merger from the shareholders of Whitney. Information about the directors and executive officers of Whitney is included in the proxy statement for its 2010 annual meeting of shareholders, which was filed with the SEC on April 14, 2010. Additional information regarding the interests of such participants will be included in the definitive joint proxy statement/prospectus and the other relevant documents filed with the SEC when they become available.

The directors, executive officers, and certain other members of management and employees of Hancock are participants in the solicitation of proxies in favor of the Merger from the shareholders of Hancock. Information about the directors and executive officers of Hancock is included in the proxy statement for its 2011 annual meeting of shareholders, which was filed with the SEC on February 28, 2011. Additional information regarding the interests of such participants will be included in the definitive joint proxy statement/prospectus and the other relevant documents filed with the SEC when they become available.

"SAFE HARBOR" STATEMENT UNDER THE PRIVATE SECURITIES LITIGATION REFORM ACT OF 1995:  

Congress passed the Private Securities Litigation Act of 1995 in an effort to encourage corporations to provide information about companies' anticipated future financial performance. This act provides a safe harbor for such disclosure, which protects the companies from unwarranted litigation if actual results are different from management expectations. This communication contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, and reflects management's current views and estimates of future economic circumstances, industry conditions, company performance, and financial results. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties which could cause Hancock's, Whitney's or the combined company's actual results and experience to differ from the anticipated results and expectations expressed in such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made and neither Hancock nor Whitney assumes any duty to update forward-looking statements. In addition to factors previously disclosed in Hancock's and Whitney's reports filed with the SEC and those identified elsewhere in this communication, the following factors among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from forward-looking statements or historical performance: the possibility that the proposed transaction does not close when expected or at all because required regulatory, shareholder or other approvals and other conditions to closing are not received or satisfied on a timely basis or at all; the terms of the proposed transaction may need to be modified to satisfy such approvals or conditions; the anticipated benefits from the proposed transaction such as it being accretive to earnings, expanding our geographic presence and synergies are not realized in the time frame anticipated or at all as a result of changes in general economic and market conditions, interest and exchange rates, monetary policy, laws and regulations (including changes to capital requirements) and their enforcement, and the degree of competition in the geographic and business areas in which the companies operate; the ability to promptly and effectively integrate the businesses of Whitney and Hancock; reputational risks and the reaction of the companies' customers to the transaction; diversion of management time on merger-related issues; changes in asset quality and credit risk; the inability to sustain revenue and earnings; changes in interest rates and capital markets; inflation; customer acceptance of our products and services; customer borrowing, repayment, investment and deposit practices; customer disintermediation; the introduction, withdrawal, success and timing of business initiatives; competitive conditions; and the impact, extent and timing of technological changes, capital management activities, and other actions of the Federal Reserve Board and federal and state banking regulators, and legislative and regulatory actions and reforms, including those associated with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Acts.

The Hancock and Whitney logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=8826

The photo is also available at Newscom, www.newscom.com, and via AP PhotoExpress.

CONTACT: Hancock Holding Company
         Carl J. Chaney, President & Chief Executive Officer
         Michael M. Achary, EVP & Chief Financial Officer
         Paul D. Guichet, VP, Investor Relations Manager
         800.522.6542 or 228.563.6559
         
         Whitney Holding Corporation
         Trisha Voltz Carlson, SVP, Investor Relations Manager
         504.299.5208

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