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Exchange Bank starts paying dividends

  • Trey Smith, left, talks with Brittany Creveling during their break at Santa Rosa Junior College on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Smith, who works two jobs to pay for tuition, would have welcomed the financial aid of the Doyle Scholarship.

The Doyle Scholarship for incoming Santa Rosa Junior College students will resume next year after a five-year hiatus, the result of a decision Tuesday by Exchange Bank to resume stock dividends that funded the popular program for six decades.

The resurgent Santa Rosa bank announced Tuesday it will pay its first dividend since 2008, making it possible for SRJC to issue Doyle scholarships to new students in the fall of 2013.

"The Doyle's back in business," SRJC President Frank Chong said Tuesday after the bank's announcement, describing himself as "ecstatic."

The bank, which halted the dividend after it was pummeled by big losses on construction loans, will pay a 25-cents-per-share quarterly dividend on Sept. 21, bank Chairman C. William Reinking said Tuesday.

On an annual basis, the dividend would provide about $850,000 to the bank's largest shareholder, the Frank P. Doyle and Polly O'Meara Doyle Trust, which funds the Doyle Scholarship.

That is significantly less than the $5.3 million the college received from the trust in 2007, the last year of full dividends. That year, the bank paid a total of $6.10 in dividends per share over four quarters, including a bonus.

But it would easily surpass the estimated $668,000 the college will have awarded since 2009 under its alternative "Bridging the Doyle" scholarship program. That includes about $120,000 the college plans to hand out to new students this year.

Reinking and bank CEO William Schrader said the dividend is an important step on the bank's road to recovery. While dividend announcements by other companies rarely make headlines, bank executives are well-aware its dividends fund the Doyle program, which has helped upwards of 120,000 students pay for college.

"It's deeply satisfying to us as residents of Sonoma County," Schrader said. "It's something we're very proud of."

The bank, which has now reported a profit for 13 straight quarters, sought to resume the dividend in March. The plan was rejected by the Treasury Department, which owned preferred stock in Exchange Bank after loaning it $45 million in 2008 under a program designed to shore up the U.S. banking system during the financial crisis.

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