Venture plans to distribute assets

DuPONT - Venture Financial Group's board of directors say they will evaluate options for winding down the company and also plan to contact creditors about distributing remaining assets, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week.

Venture Financial is the former bank-holding company for Venture Bank, the 30-year-old community bank that was closed by state and federal regulators and sold to First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. of North Carolina last week. First Citizens bought only the bank and not the bank-holding company, but the bank apparently is not the only asset owned by Venture Financial, according to Thursday’s SEC filing.

The filing shows that Venture Financial has assets of $2.5 million in cash and cash equivalents and liabilities of nearly $30 million. The company liabilities are $22.7 million in junior subordinated debt, accrued and unpaid interest of $800,000 and “known contractual and other obligations of approximately $6 million,” according to the filing.

Jim Arneson, the former president and chief executive of Venture Bank and a Venture Financial board member, could not be reached for comment. Fellow board member Sonny Bridges also could not be reached.

The SEC filing continues to say:

“Based on the company’s (Venture Financial’s) current financial condition, the company’s board of directors will evaluate options for winding down the affairs of the company, which may include the dissolution of the company pursuant to Washington law. The company intends to contact all creditors to begin the process of reaching agreement on an equitable distribution of the company’s assets outside of any bankruptcy proceeding to reduce expenses and maximize payments.”

The filing was not clear on whether “creditors” would include the former shareholders in the bank and company.

On Friday, investor Jim Slopak of Yelm, said he lost at least $8,000. Slopak, 67, said he and his wife invested the money in 1997 into Prairie Security Bank, a bank later acquired by an early version of Venture Bank called First Community Bank. First Community changed its name to Venture Bank in 2003.

Slopak said he and his wife occasionally received dividend checks, but he didn’t have a clear idea of how his investment had changed in value over the years. Shares in Venture were traded through a transfer agent and were not available through a public stock exchange.

“I never received anything that said (the investment) is worth X amount of dollars,” Slopak said, although he does recall receiving letters that there was more stock available to buy. Ellen Munson of Lacey said she lost her investment in the bank and company, an investment that at one time was valued at about $42,000.

Since Venture Bank’s closure, Slopak has called Venture Financial’s investor relations telephone number three times without response, he said.

First Citizens Bank spokeswoman Barbara Thompson also referred The Olympian to the same phone number to get questions answered about Venture Financial Group.

Slopak says his next step is to write off his investment loss on his income taxes. “That’s all I can do,” he said. “They go out of business and you’re left holding the bag.”

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403