Rosemary Ramirez Barbour’s firm won’t be buying Ebbers’ country club

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A company headed by the niece of Gov. Haley Barbour has failed to close on a deal to buy a country club once owned by imprisoned ex-WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers.

The company, Alcatec, is owned by Rosemary Ramirez Barbour, who is married to Hinds County Supervisor Charles Barbour, the governor’s nephew.

Her company was the high bidder — at $810,000 — for the Brookhaven Country Club. However, she failed this past week to close on the deal by July 10.

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Her accountants and lawyers recently said she had changed her mind about the purchase, said Bill Brandt, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Development Specialists Inc., the company that handles Ebbers’ trust.

Barbour gave no reason for her change of mind, Brandt said. The country club now goes to the next highest bidder, Jeff Wilson, former owner of a Brookhaven car dealership. His bid at last month’s auction was $700,000.

The country club formerly owned by Ebbers includes almost 130 acres with an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, a swimming pool, a clubhouse, maintenance sheds and a home.

Ebbers, 65, was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in 2005 for his role in the accounting scandal that led to WorldCom’s collapse. He began serving his sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, La., in September 2006.

The accounting fraud forced former Clinton-based WorldCom into bankruptcy in 2002. When it emerged from bankruptcy, it changed its name to MCI and moved its headquarters to Virginia. MCI since has been sold to Verizon.

In the settlement, Ebbers turned over all his assets except enough money to purchase a home for his wife, provide her an allowance and pay attorneys representing him during appeals.

Funds from the sale of assets go into the Ebbers’ Trust, Brandt said. Money will be distributed to the parties who sued both Ebbers and WorldCom.