News Column

Bell State to Buy Business Bank, Prime Mortgage

Jan. 8, 2013

Jennifer Bjorhus, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

The parent of Bell State Bank & Trust, a Fargo-based bank that has been expanding into the Minnesota market, is buying The Business Bank in Minneapolis and its Prime Mortgage division, creating a major player in the region's mortgage market.

The purchase, announced Tuesday, nearly doubles Bell State's mortgage business in the area, creating a company that originated nearly $3 billion in mortgages last year. Financial details of the merger, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval, weren't disclosed, and the company said it doesn't know when the sale will close.

"It's a big day here," said Todd Lee, Bell State's executive vice president and Twin Cities managing director.

Lee said that the mortgage operation fed new business to the bank throughout 2012 and that he expects more of that synergy with the acquisition.

The Business Bank, based in Minneapolis, is a small business lender with assets of $200 million. Prime Mortgage joined it in 2007.

Together the companies employ more than 200 people in 15 offices in Minnesota and a satellite office in Naples, Fla.

Bell State Bank & Trust, whose local headquarters is now in Golden Valley, was formerly State Bank Trust. It changed its name after it entered the Twin Cities market by acquiring St. Louis Park-based Bell Mortgage in 2011.

The Fargo-based bank has assets of more than $2.5 billion, making it the largest family-owned bank operating in Minnesota.

Lee said it's not immediately clear whether there will be layoffs.

"We are at the very beginning of this transaction, so we will be in a better position to answer that in the weeks and months to come," he said. "One thing I can say for sure is that our company cares about people and our track record following bank acquisitions is, even where there is overlap, to try hard to find other positions for all high-performing people."

Source: (c)2013 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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