Golden Valley-based Venture Bank, the largest independent small business lender in the Twin Cities, on Monday closed on a deal to be acquired by Choice Financial of Fargo.

Choice Financial sought a Twin Cities-market entry and to diversify its agricultural-and-energy loan portfolio.

The price was not disclosed.

However, Venture Bank, a fast-growing, 17-year-old lender of $730 million in assets, has equity of about $70 million. Good-quality community banks are selling in this market for two-or-more times equity, or $140 million-plus.

"This is a good deal for our stakeholders, including [45] shareholders, our 115 employees and our communities," said Venture CEO Mike Zenk, who founded the bank with operations-executive Gwen Stanley, and a nonemployee in 2001.

"Gwen and I are several other employee shareholders are reinvesting [some of their take from the deal] in the merged company," said Zenk, 63. "I have no plans to retire."

Zenk said privately held Venture, which operates from four suburban offices, earned about $17 million in 2017.

"I love our work," said Zenk, who will run the Twin Cities market. "I want to be around for the next seven or eight years. I believe in community banking. And I'm investing in Choice Bank."

Zenk and Stanley, who also will remain with the merged organization, are veterans of the former Riverside Bank. That Minneapolis-based community-business lender was acquired by Associated Bancorp. In 2001, Zenk and Stanley, 61, left to form Venture. They attracted several dozen local investors to support the growth of Venture Bank in the early years.

The third local founder of Venture is Dan Boeckermann, a local accountant.

Fargo-based Choice is profitable and has total assets of about $1.2 billion. It operates in 17 North Dakota and rural Minnesota communities.

"We are very excited about this new partnership with Venture Bank and the opportunity to expand into a new market," Choice CEO Brian Johnson said in a prepared statement. "As we sought opportunities to diversify, finding a bank that shares a similar vision and values was critical and we feel that Venture Bank is a great fit."

Zenk, who said Venture Bank has worked with 5,000 local businesses since 2001, said Venture Bank leaders started to discuss an "exit strategy" for more than three dozen employee-and-other shareholders. That led to an 18-month search for a potential partner that led to Choice Financial.

Zenk said he wanted a community-bank partner that would commit to grow in the Twin Cities, enable the Venture franchise to make larger loans and offer a growth path for employees.

"The main objective during this search was to find a partner that was aligned with the bank's values, internal culture and commitment to business banking," Zenk said.

The acquisition is expected to be approved by bank regulators in the second quarter.

Choice is the latest of several North Dakota-based financial institutions to enter the Twin Cities market through an acquisition or opening an office.