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Bremer Bank opens first Duluth location in Holiday Center

The bank's philanthropic trust is in the midst of a legal battle.

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The new location of Bremer Bank at the Holiday Center in Downtown Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Bremer Bank opened its first Duluth location in the Holiday Center on Wednesday.

Bremer is headquartered in St. Paul, and its new location at 225 W. Superior St., Ste. 120, is a 3,200-square-foot, full-service branch. The corporation has other locations across Minnesota, as well as in western Wisconsin and North Dakota, a news release from the bank said.

The bank's services include banking, wealth management, mortgage, investment and insurance.

The new location employs four people, including Deb Otto as its president and Jenn Ryan as the vice president and commercial banker.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed the bank's scheduled opening date in March.

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Now, with the virus still present, the bank has taken several safety measures to ensure staff and customer safety. It installed Plexiglas barriers at teller windows, placed stickers on the floor to show social-distance measuring and is offering disposable face masks and hand sanitizer.

Inspired by Duluth shipyards, the new space's design uses metal features and wood elements.

Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce President David Ross said he welcomes the bank, and that its new downtown location "is a prime space to fill."

Three trustees of the corporation's philanthropic trust, Otto Bremer Trust, who own a 92% economic stake in the bank and 20% controlling stake, are in the midst of a legal battle with the state's attorney general and the bank's employees, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press .

Bremer Financial first sued three trustees last year to stop the partial sale of the bank shares to 19 out-of-state hedge funds. In counterclaims, the trustees accused bank officials of breaching fiduciary duty.

The attorney general's office is petitioning to remove three trustees, alleging the trustees spent lavishly, hiked up their own compensation, paid themselves redundant fees and attempted to sell Bremer for personal enrichment.

Attorneys for the trustees, in a response last week to the petition, denied each claim, saying the petition "assails the good character of the trustees," the Pioneer Press reported.

Through private stock sales, the attorneys said that the trustees were attempting to increase the philanthropy’s charitable assets by over $1 billion.

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Bank staff, who own part of the corporation, have also filed their own class-action lawsuit against the trustees to protect their voting rights. This is while, the Pioneer Press reports, several investment funds have filed lawsuits to push the bank sales through.

This story originally misstated the trustee's involvement in the lawsuit. It was updated at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 27 with the correct information. The News Tribune regrets the error.

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