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Board of Bremer Financial rejects plan by trustees to possibly sell

The announcement Monday by Otto Bremer Trust indicating the possible sale of Bremer Financial Corp. could possibly lead to a legal and shareholder fight.

Clarise Tushie-Lessard, vice president of communications with Bremer Financial Corp. released a letter to employees from President and CEO Jeanne Crain after Otto Bremer’s announcement.

“The three trustees of the Otto Bremer Trust (OBT) who are members of the BFC board recently put forth a proposal which called for the exploration of a sale of BFC.  The other BFC board members unanimously voted against a sale of BFC (with one board member not present) and the board rejected the proposal,” the letter stated. “Rest assured, I and the rest of the leadership team are keenly focused on doing what is in BFC’s best interests while continuing to serve our customers and communities. The bank is strong, and the financial resources we have provided to OBT for the last 75 years are unparalleled. The character, culture and financial strength of the organization will always serve as our guiding principles.”

The three foundation trustees are a minority on the 10-person Bremer Financial board, but the foundation controls 92% of the shares, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report.

According to third-quarter financials released by Crain, 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. This resulted in a year-to-date return on average equity of 12.88% and return on assets of 1.21%. Results include the impact of over 7% loan growth from the third quarter of 2018 to the third quarter of 2019 and stable credit quality.

Crain also reported Bremer Financial Corporation paid a dividend of $14.4 million for the third quarter of 2019, which followed $58.8 million in dividends paid during the first two quarters of 2019.

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