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St. Paul's Western Bank sold but will remain separate

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS
  • Star Tribune
  • July 26, 2012 - 9:03 PM

Western Bank, a St. Paul institution that has helped fund hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, has been bought by the Omaha-based parent of American National Bank.

Terms of the deal, expected to close in September, were not disclosed.

The deal stands out for not being a distress sale -- Western Bank, which has been owned by the Sands family since 1935, is very well-capitalized and largely escaped the commercial real estate crash that weakened so many small lenders.

Western Bank will continue to operate as a separately chartered bank, based in its brick building on University Avenue in St. Paul's Frogtown, about a block from where it started in 1915.

The companies said in a release that the larger American National Bank, with assets of $2.13 billion, will provide Western Bank, with assets of $401.35 million, with the depth of products, technology and lending strength to help Western Bank expand in the Twin Cities market.

Western Bank employs 82 people and has branches in Edina, Maplewood, Oakdale and Mounds View.

Western Bank's president and CEO, Tony Lemaire, said in an interview that the two banks are both community business banks and share nearly identical models.

"This is about two very healthy banks getting together to produce an even better bank, and that's exciting," Lemaire said.

Lemaire said he will remain president and CEO, and Julie Sands Causey will remain chairman of the bank's board.

"We have no plans to contract at this point," Lemaire said. "We expect to expand."

Bill Sands, 74, chairman of the board of Western Bank's holding company, said the deal took time to come together.

"About two years ago their president and CEO called us out of the blue and said he'd always wanted to have a presence in the Twin Cities," Sands said.

Initially, Western Bank said it wasn't interested, but Sands said American National persisted. "He definitely liked our bank."

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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