Greeley bank failure victims move on

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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - Five years ago, Martin Lind had the Midas touch.

As a development mogul throughout northern Colorado - the man and money behind the Colorado Eagles, the Budweiser Events Center and Water Valley - he literally couldn’t lose.

But one event almost brought him to his knees.

New Frontier Bank failed on April 10, 2009, and it came crashing down on its borrowers with no mercy. In one day, borrowers big and small learned they were on the precipice of financial ruin - even Lind.

With almost $2 billion in assets, New Frontier was the largest bank in Greeley and northern Colorado, and it became the biggest bank failure in the nation in 2009.

It was one of the few banks across the country that was completely liquidated, costing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation $912 million as of December 2013.

Five years after the bank failed, Lind and other victims say they have clawed their way back and say they are stronger and better for it. But they’ll never forget.

“Just this last January, I realized I survived,” said Lind in a small office tucked in a corner of his Water Valley headquarters in Windsor. “That’s when I could really take a big breath and say we survived.”

Northern Colorado was booming from 2000-2006. Lind, looking back, said he felt like he couldn’t lose.

“If it would have been Vegas, everyone would have been crowded around me at the craps table. Everything we touched was easy and worked,” he said.

New Frontier Bank was the one place in town everyone knew to get money, especially after being turned down elsewhere. It was the place where several small-business owners, farmers and developers turned for quick cash and ready money.

“They’d lend you money and when it came due, they’d just lend you more money to pay it. And they’d do that for a couple of years,” said Byron Bateman , president of Cache Bank and Trust in Greeley. “At a lot of banks in town, if you had a loan that was starting to look a little iffy, you just sent them to New Frontier.”

Bateman added, “It wasn’t meant to be a big conspiracy. I had several loans we were starting to squeeze, and they’d come in here saying they got refinanced at New Frontier.”

Banks’ books are public and bankers often look at each other’s finances for competitive purposes. All bankers in northern Colorado were watching New Frontier as it continued to grow exponentially.

In its short 10 years, it grew from $6 million in humble beginnings to become a $2 billion bank. When banks lend money, they have to have the capital to back it up.

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