ST. PAUL — Is the Bremer Financial Corp. for sale? The Otto Bremer Trust, which owns 86% of the bank, is looking at options.
The trustees of the Otto Bremer Trust, a St. Paul-based philanthropic organization, announced Monday, Oct. 28, they may sell their portion of Bremer Financial to a larger unspecified financial institution. The announcement signals a public squabble between the leaders of both organizations.
“We have called for a special meeting of (Bremer Financial’s) shareholders to seat a new board to begin a meaningful exploration of (Bremer Financial’s) strategic options, including a potential sale or merger,” said co-CEO and trustee Brian Lipschultz, in a statement.
In a letter to employees, Bremer Financial CEO Jeanne Crain describes how the three Bremer Trust trustees on the 10-member Bremer Financial board proposed the exploration of a sale. The non-trustee members (one was not present) unanimously voted against it, thus the proposal was rejected.
Bremer Financial, the parent company of the state’s third-largest bank by deposit market share, Bremer Bank, is a regional financial services company with $12 billion in assets. The company earned net income of $42.4 million for the third quarter of 2019, resulting in $113.9 million in year-to-date net income for 2019.
The Bremer Trust has more than $1 billion in assets, according to their tax documents. Officials would not speculate what kind of price they could get should they sell Bremer Financial.
According to Monday’s news release, the trust owns 86% of the corporation.
Lipschultz said Bremer Financial board members have tried for months to work on “a collaborative path forward,” but it “has not proved possible.” The trust sold about 7% of the corporation’s common stock to investors in separate transactions, Lipschultz said.
Bremer Trust has also called for the removal of non-Trust members of the Bremer Financial board with the intention of selling, according to Crain’s message to employees.
Employees own about 8% of the corporation’s stock through a 401(k) retirement program.
“This is not a decision we made lightly or without exploring every other approach,” Daniel Reardon, third co-CEO and trustee, said in a statement. “A successful transaction would enable an incredible significant increase in (the trust’s) philanthropy and allow us to expand our work in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Montana.”
Otto Bremer Trust is one of the region’s largest philanthropic organizations. It has doled out more than $700 million since it started in 1944.