Columbus mgrs. acquire former Ebbers’ property

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2006

The Columbus Lumber Company, previously owned by former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers, has been acquired by the business’ existing managers.

Partnering with an undisclosed private equity group, existing president and general manager Jeff Grierson and vice president and chief financial officer Doug Boykin, finalized the sale on July 31. The group had served the company for the past two years.

The group plans to keep the operations and employment localized.

“The driving motivation that Doug and I had in pursuing the purchase of Columbus Lumber was because of our employees, and we knew that we wanted to stay here in Brookhaven,” Grierson said.

Ebbers, who had been WorldCom’s chief executive, was sentenced to federal prison and heavily fined last year for his role in the telecommunications company’s massive accounting fraud. A federal appeals court recently upheld his conviction and 25-year prison sentence.

As part of the liquidation of Ebbers’ assets, the company had been held in trust for the past year, leaving the business’ 144 employees uncertain what would become of their jobs.

“It’s been a big cloud hanging over this business for some time, and I know everyone is relieved that it is finally over and we can begin a new chapter,” Boykin said.

The purchase price has not been disclosed, but according to an advertisement by the trustee, Development Specialists, Inc., the lowest qualifying bid that met purchase requirements was $17.75 million.

Beginning operations in 1943, Columbus Lumber produces more than 85 million board feet of lumber each year.