Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Bolsters Tribal Economic Development Portfolio with Purchase of Bellicose Capital, LLC

-Historic Acquisition Strengthens Tribe's Economic Self-Sufficiency in a Landmark Deal for Indian Country-

Jan 27, 2016, 11:37 ET from Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

WATERSMEET, Mich., Jan. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In a major deal that will bring millions of dollars in economic development to the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (LVD) and its geographically isolated reservation in Watersmeet, MI, LVD has today announced that it has completed the purchase of Bellicose Capital. Bellicose has been a valued service provider to the Tribe's lending business and talks to acquire Bellicose have been underway for several years.

Under the terms of the purchase, the Tribe will pay a seven-figure sum up front and annual payments for a period not to exceed seven years. With each payment LVD will immediately build additional equity in its own lending support service business for the Tribe. With the acquisition, LVD has become the first Tribe to own a lending company along with a fully integrated sophisticated support services business which includes vendor identification, due diligence and management; compliance management, oversight and auditing services; marketing; employee training; and credit modeling and risk assessment development. Bellicose has now been merged into Ascension Technologies, LLC, a subsidiary formed under the laws of the Tribe of Tribal Economic Development Holdings, LLC (TED), a wholly-owned and operated instrumentality of the Tribe.

"This transaction is, without question, the most important economic development in the history of our Tribe," said Tribal Chairman James Williams, Jr. "It is always a testament to our growth as a Tribe and as entrepreneurs when we are able to complete transactions like the purchase of Bellicose. It shows the world that we have laid the foundation – through knowledge, training, and infrastructure investments – to further the livelihoods of our Tribal citizens."

"This purchase has positioned us to strengthen our Tribe, enhance our reservation, preserve our culture, operate our government, and provide educational, medical, and social services to our most vulnerable members and the children of our community." Chairman Williams continued. "It will be a great personal legacy for all those involved."

"Today, we have finally realized the culmination of discussions that started more than three years ago," said Matt Martorello, former owner and President of Bellicose Capital. "We can all feel very good about what we've accomplished for LVD and the standard we have set for Indian Country involving similar and future deals.  LVD's purchase of Bellicose is the natural evolution of the Tribe's almost 5 year-old lending business and a testament to the sophisticated entrepreneurial mindset that exists at LVD."

"The finalization of this purchase is a tremendous testament to the Tribe's leadership, as the combination of these businesses is primed to do a great many things in the years ahead, directly and by way of investment on the reservation and in whatever other avenues the Tribe should choose to pursue," Martorello continued.

In recent years, LVD has focused on economic diversification by harnessing the power of the internet to replace income lost from the lack of tourism and the downturn in the economy affecting casino revenue. LVD began its lending operations after necessary due diligence that included both a financial review of the industry and an analysis of relevant federal and state laws related to tribal involvement in the delivery of financial services. After careful consideration, and before engaging in any lending activity, LVD enacted laws necessary and proper to authorize and regulate the delivery of financial services through wholly owned and operated entities of the Tribe.

Since 2011, LVD has continued to grow its lending business while monitoring the industry, participating in the national debate regarding short term consumer lending, building a robust regulatory authority tasked with regulating the conduct of all consumer financial services licensees including lenders, vendors, and employees engaged in the consumer finance business within the Tribe's jurisdiction, and refining its laws to ensure meaningful dispute resolution for consumers and licensees as well as defining a process for regulation development and implementation. LVD's laws and regulations are public and available at http://www.lvdtribal.com/tfsra.html.

"Our tribal lending businesses have led to the creation of additional employment opportunities and have created a sense of pride among tribal citizens who are learning new skills to ensure their personal success both on and off the reservation," offers Michelle Hazen, Co-Manager of TED and Chief Executive Officer of Big Picture Loans, LLC, one of the Tribe's wholly owned and operated Tribal lending businesses. "I look forward to working with our new Ascension team members to ensure the delivery of a compliant and quality financial product," said Hazen.

"Our tribal lending business is recognized as a model in the industry and we have actively and successfully pursued cooperative relationships with state and federal consumer protection agencies throughout the country," adds Chairman Williams. "The addition of Bellicose assets into Ascension will ensure LVD's long term success in the industry."

LVD has found Tribal lending to be an invaluable vehicle for economic growth, Tribal services, and Tribal development, and the impact on these areas has been immeasurable. With revenues from the Tribe's lending business, it has provided critical funding for new Tribal housing and renovations, education, and technology upgrades within the Tribal department and programs. Without revenues from the lending business, the Tribe would be unable to continue to operate essential government services at current funding levels for its 711 citizens and planned government services expansion would likely fail. LVD's lending initiative gives the Tribe a chance to lift itself up from years of struggle and poverty, underfunded government, and financial uncertainty toward stable, legitimate growth, development, and economic prosperity and success.

About the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

The Tribe originally lived on South Island in Lac Vieux Desert until they moved to the south shore of Lake Superior around 1880. In recent history, LVD was recognized by most as members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and resided in and around the Watersmeet, Michigan area. In the 1960's, members of LVD began the effort to reorganize as a separate and distinct tribe – an effort that was finally realized in 1988 when President Reagan signed the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Act. Since then, the Tribe has undertaken a number of successful economic development initiatives to enhance their economic footprint, in addition to successful tribal lending businesses, the Tribe operates a destination gaming resort facility including a 132 room motel, 18-hole golf course, restaurant, and convenience store. LVD's 2007 investment in Machal, LLC, a Louisiana-based casino management company, brought success not only to LVD but also the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians who, in February 2013, opened the Choctaw Pines Casino located in Alexandria, Louisiana.  LVD's economic development efforts have also funded the Tribe's limited care facility including mental health, pharmaceutical, dental, and optometry services, child care services, a Tribal Water and Wastewater Utility, new law enforcement and Tribal Court facilities, a fish hatchery, and maintenance of the Tribe's historic village and traditional gathering grounds.

SOURCE Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians



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