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Robert Trigaux

BET founder Robert Johnson's Urban Trust Bank expands to Tampa Bay area

Robertjohnsonurbantrust Wake up and good morning.

An Orlando bank called Urban Trust Bank and owned these past three years by Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder and billionaire Robert Johnson is coming to the Tampa Bay area. The bank, which already operates branches in Walmart stores, is buying seven of the giant chain's in-store bank branches from Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks. They include locations in Bradenton, Bartow, Brandon, Lake Wales, Naples, Osprey and Sebring.

In 2001, Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold BET to Viacom for $3 billion and formed RLJ Companies.

And yes, this is the same Robert Johnson, now 63, who was once married to Sheila Crump, now Sheila Johnson. BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, via her company Salamander Hospitality, bought and expanded the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla., for $35 million from Golf Trust of America. (Sheila Johnson photo: Jim Damaske, St. Petersburg Times.)

Sheilajohnsoninnisbrookjimdamaske So this brings two Johnson billionaires (now divorced) into the Tampa Bay economy.

The Urban Trust deal to expand into the Tampa Bay area is the latest in a multi-year partnership between Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer, and Urban Trust, once the smallest financial institution in Central Florida. The former Metro Savings Bank has based its expansion plans on Walmart branches, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In addition to Johnson, Atlanta investor Frank Hanna Jr. is also a principal owner of Urban Trust.

According to Florida Trend magazine, Urban Trust Bank has about $400 million in deposits and expects to become profitable this year by targeting the “urban market” -- defined by Urban Trust executive Kathy Boden as customers who want understandable products, low fees, competitive rates and convenient locations.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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