David Cleveland, Minneapolis community banker and MN Cup founder, dies at 89

David Cleveland, the prominent retired Minneapolis banker, called the MN Cup manager a few days before the event to let him know that he and his wife, Carolyn, felt up to the trip from their tree farm. of Wisconsin.

Cleveland, 89, had made the competition and annual entrepreneurial event possible in its early years with its time and more than $1 million in donations.

“He passed away three days before the Minnesota Cup that he and Carolyn founded, and without their initial donation there would have been no Minnesota Cup,” said program director John Stavig, who held its final the last week.

Cleveland died Sept. 17 at his home in Sarona, Wisconsin.

Cleveland — joined by his late son, Brad, a computer scientist who died of brain cancer in 2016 after retiring as founding CEO of public company Protolabs — were also key advisers and mentors to fledgling entrepreneurs.

Raised professionally in the old First Bank system, Cleveland and three other founding investors established Riverside Bank in 1974 on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota. The neighborhood was known more for counterculture and cooperatives than for commerce.

Cleveland and its partners, including a former University of Minnesota accounting professor and business attorney Dorsey Whitney, knew the region was underbanked. Riverside has become a growth lender to small businesses with a low delinquency rate.

Cleveland was an excellent business analyst and judge of character, according to his colleagues.

“Dave was an optimist, but he wasn’t naïve,” recalls Kate Barr, a former senior vice president of Riverside who started out as a student dancer and employee at the nearby Guild of Performing Arts.

“Dave took me under his wing and taught me how to budget. I got pretty good at accounting. He hired me in 1979,” she said. “He made ‘character-based’ loans – loans based on indicators of character and instinct as well as capital. If he trusted you, if he believed you would be honest, borrower or employee . It also required honesty. And hard work.”

Dee Thibodeau, the seasoned entrepreneur, was working on her third successful business in the 1980s. She couldn’t get a loan, a common situation for women 35 years ago.

“It took Dave about 20 minutes to give me a $50,000 line of credit,” recalls Thibodeau, who also started Charter Solutions, a Riverside bank that employs more than 100 people in healthcare software. health. “Dave was a friend of small business people and entrepreneurs. And Riverside made money. I always paid back my loans.”

Cleveland supported Steve and Mary Flagg in the 1970s. Steve Flagg, once a mechanic-director of the West Bank Freewheel Bike Coop, built one of America’s largest distributors and wholesale manufacturers at Quality Bicycle Products, based in Bloomington.

Riverside was also a major lender to real estate investors, restaurant owners and art businesses in the then-nascent warehouse district that had boomed since the 1980s. And Riverside lenders had a knack for supporting successful niche manufacturers.

During the booming 1990s, Riverside expanded to a downtown and suburban site. It has grown profitably to $350 million in assets and has shown industry-leading returns on equity and assets.

Cleveland sold Riverside in 1999 for about $90 million in Associated Bancorp stock, or three times its book value or net worth. Cleveland’s stake was approximately $35 million.

The Clevelands donated much of their wealth to favorite causes, including $1 million to a summer camp in South Dakota where Dave’s father, a minister, worked for years.

Cleveland, whose salary peaked at $275,000 as head of one of Minnesota’s most successful banks, enjoyed investing in employees, customers and the community, those who knew him said. He led the Minnesota Associated franchise until 2002.

“Wealth means nothing to me,” Cleveland said after the sale. “I love working. I also love hearing people say ‘thank you’. I’m very lucky.”

Dave and Carolyn Cleveland “retired” to their Sarona farm. He grew trees and vegetables. They were volunteers from the local community and young people. Dave Cleveland has also been repeatedly called upon by regulators to help struggling area banks for free.

Cleveland told me about the problem in 2009, as the country grappled with the financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession, which cost millions of jobs.

“Bankers and investment bankers and short-term greed,” Cleveland said. “Where (were) their boards of directors? Regulators would sue me from time to time for a “substandard loan” to a small business. We had a lot of our capital to back those loans. My counsel knew (what) I was doing when we took a risk on a small business. And they knew I wasn’t spending shareholder money on country clubs or Vikings tickets.

“Because of greed, we had this horrible recession, a lot of good businesses laid off workers. Small businesses can’t get credit,” he said. “It annoys me enormously.”

Dave Cleveland gave business and money a good reputation.

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