He’s ready to play quarterback for American National Bank

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Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:00 am

It’s not easy to stump a hometown sports fan.

But when confronted with the statement that Adrian Breen was once a starting quarterback for the National Football League’s Bengals, a certain Cincinnati native in this office was sure: No way. Never heard of him.

But it’s true. Breen called signals for the NFL team, and now Breen has brought his game to Omaha as the new president and CEO of American National Bank, the city’s third-largest locally owned bank.

The job opening came as American National Executive Chairman John Kotouc moved Steve Ritzman to president of the $2.46 billion-asset American National Corp. holding company.

With Breen as the new chief of the Omaha bank, Ritzman can focus on corporate strategies like acquisitions in Nebraska, Iowa and the newly entered Minneapolis-St. Paul market.

“We continue to see opportunities” in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, Ritzman said.

American National acquired Liberty Bank’s branches in Council Bluffs in January 2012 and converted them to American National offices. Liberty Bank sold its offices to raise cash and improve its lagging finances.

In October 2012, American National bought Western Bank of St. Paul, Minn., a $450 million-asset, well-run and profitable bank. Its five offices in the Twin Cities brought American National Corp.’s total to 38 offices.

American National also had acquired Peoples National Bank of Council Bluffs in 2001 and changed those offices to the American National brand.

Ritzman said the bank’s retail, commercial and residential business is growing.

Mortgage lending has shifted from refinancing, to take advantage of low interest rates, to new mortgage loans fed by new-home construction.

“It’s a strong market,” said Ritzman, a banker for 34 years who specialized in commercial banking.

Breen has 25 years of banking experience, most recently as president of the Cincinnati region of the $6.5 billion-asset First Financial Bank of Cincinnati and earlier with Park National Bank and Fifth Third Bank, both from Ohio.

Breen said it’s an advantage to join a well-run, growing bank that matches his ideas of client-focused banking. “This is not a fix,” he said.

American National’s principal owner is Alan Lozier, owner of store fixture manufacturer Lozier Corp. Kotouc and a group of employee stockholders also own shares.

Breen and his wife, Lori, are moving to Omaha, and he said they would become active in volunteer work in the city. Their children are Taylor, a recent Truman State University graduate (who also played quarterback), and Shannon, a student at Kent State University.

Breen said his sports career has parallels with business, such as the concepts of working as a team, competing fairly and leading people toward common goals.

How about Breen’s short-lived pro football career?

After playing quarterback at Morehead (Ky.) State University, he signed as a free agent in 1987 with the St. Louis Cardinals but was cut.

The season was interrupted by a players strike, and the Bengals called him to be one of the replacement players hired by team owners to keep the season going. He played in two games, starting one, and missed a third game with an injury, before the strike ended.

The replacement team’s record: A loss to San Diego, a win against Seattle and a loss to the Cleveland Browns, who had brought back their No. 1 defense and No. 2 offensive units early.

He threw one touchdown pass and no interceptions. They mostly ran the ball, he said, a conservative style that works well for a banker. “We kept it pretty simple.”

He remembers Bengals owner Paul Brown’s comments when his players were downhearted after the loss to Cleveland.

You should be proud, not sad, Brown said. “You played for the love of the game.”

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