ST. PAUL — Shareholders with the Bremer Financial Corp. voted Thursday, April 29, to oust two members of their parent company, the Otto Bremer Trust, one of the state’s oldest philanthropies, from the corporation’s board of directors. The two members were not replaced.
Instead, the size of what had been a nine-member board was limited to no more than seven members and no fewer than five.
The decision to remove Otto Bremer Trust trustees Brian Lipschultz and Daniel Reardon follows months of legal fighting over the fate of the Bremer Financial Corp. and its major asset, St. Paul-based Bremer Bank, a $13 billion financial institution and one of Minnesota’s largest farm lenders.
The two trustees have sought to exert greater influence over the corporation, court out-of-state shareholders and ready the bank for a likely sale.
On Wednesday, a Ramsey County District Court judge denied Lipschultz and Reardon’s request for a temporary injunction to delay the vote. Both men remain active trustees of the philanthropy.
Following Thursday’s vote, which took a matter of minutes, corporation officials released a written statement indicating they appreciate “the court’s care and attention to this important issue and its decision upholding the longstanding right of BFC’s shareholders to elect the board of directors at the annual meeting.”
The corporate board is now composed of seven members: board chair Ron James, Mary K. Brainerd, Jeanne H. Crain, Glenn D. McCoy, Kevin A. Rhein, Wendy Schoppert and Charles B. Westling.
The ousted trustees released a statement of their own on Thursday indicating they remained committed to exerting greater control over the fate of Bremer Bank, which would likely be put up for sale if they prevail. A trial in one of several lawsuits involving Otto Bremer Trust and the Bremer Financial Corp. is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Ramsey County.
The trustees have long maintained they have a financial obligation to grow the company, which could bring in millions of dollars in new philanthropic investment throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
“As the record in this case continues to grow, so too does our confidence that we will prevail on the facts and the law and that the commonsense idea that the Trust, which owns the vast majority of BFC’s stock, can manage its asset to better serve our beneficiaries will be upheld,” the trustees said.