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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Banking Environment Getting More Black Ownership

Simpson "Skip" Brown, left, and Robert Johnson, right, have more than basketball in common. Mr. Brown was a star player at Wake Forest University and Mr. Johnson owns the Charlotte Hornets basketball team. These two dynamic individuals are putting North Carolina, Washington, DC and Maryland in the forefront of banking, an environment heretofore alien to black folk in terms of control. Mr. Brown started TriStone Community Bank in Winston-Salem, NC in 2004. TriStone Community Bank plans to offer a full range of banking services that will provide, in its own words, "Banking Built Around You."

Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, which he, along with his wife Sheila, sold to Viacom for $3 billion, opened Urban Trust Bank (UTB) in 2006. Urban Trust Bank's corporate headquarters is in Bethesda, Maryland. UTB intends to serve urban, underserved and minorities at a time when industry consolidation has eliminated some black banks. UTB has a branch in Orlando, Florida, where it started as a black-owned neighborhood bank until Johnson purchased it and utilized its charter to open other branches throughout the Washington area. Johnson's RLJ Cos. owns UBT and Georgia multimillionaire Frank J. Hanna, Jr. owns a minority interest. UTB has also joined with Goldman Sachs Group Inc to form UTB Education Finance LLC to make college loans.

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