BPB sale complete

By David Hedges, Publisher

A company that began in Roane County more than half a century ago was sold to a Canadian corporation this week.

The sale of Burke-Parsons-Bowlby Corp., first announced in January, was completed on schedule Tuesday, the new owners announced.

Stella-Jones Inc., based in Montreal, was to pay approximately $33 million to BPB shareholders, along with other considerations.

BPB, a producer of treated wood products including railroad ties and timbers, fencing products and log home packages, operates five plants, including one near Reedy. The other locations are at DuBois, Pa., Goshen, Va., and Stanton and Fulton, Ky. All the plants were expected to remain in operation.

BPB has 340 employees, including 100 in West Virginia, with total sales of $85 million in the year that ended March 31, 2007.

Stella-Jones had 475 employees in March 2007, with total sales of $224 million in 2006.

Stella-Jones also specializes in the production of pressure-treated railway ties as well as wood utility poles. The company's other products include marine and foundation pilings, construction timbers, highway guardrail posts and treated wood for bridges.

"This strategic acquisition will establish Stella-Jones as the second largest player in the North American railway tie market," Brian McManus, president and chief executive officer of Stella-Jones, said. Jones said the transaction was in keeping with the company's stated objective of purchasing businesses in their core market categories.

The acquisition will give the Canadian company a total of 15 wood treating facilities in North America, including seven in the U.S. The company bought a processing plant in Bangor, Wis., in 2005 and, earlier this year, acquired another in Arlington, Wash.

Although not part of the official company announcement, sources said plans were to expand BPB's corporate office in Ripley as it becomes the production headquarters for the seven plants in the U.S., which includes the five previously operated by BPB.

William "Buddy" Downey Jr., former manager of the Spencer plant who has worked at the corporate office in Ripley in recent years, will oversee production for the U.S. operations.

Three WVU forestry graduates, "Hal" Burke, Fletcher Parsons and Richard Bowlby, founded BPB in 1955. Bowlby, who lives in Spencer, was the only one to remain active with the company.

The company's original treatment plant was in Roane County. BPB bought the Goshen, Va., plant in 1966 and the one in Stanton, Ky., in 1970. BPB built the plant in DuBois, Pa., in 1972 and opened a new plant in Fulton, Ky., last year. BPB also has a minority interest in a plant in Chile.

Richard Bowlby will turn 80 years old in June. He had served as president of the company, which also included his two oldest sons; Rick worked for BPB in Kentucky while Floyd was at the corporate office in Ripley. None were expected to remain with the company.

The announcement from Stella-Jones said three former executive officers of BPB had entered into non-competition agreements with Stella-Jones for a six-year period in return for a non-compete fee of $416,667 per person.

BPB stockholders were to receive $47.78 per share, plus an additional amount equal to BPB's audited net income for its fiscal year that ended Monday, less any distributions to stockholders during that period. The parties have placed $3 million in escrow until the additional payment amount is determined.

Stella-Jones was also to assume BPB liabilities of approximately $34 million, making the total transaction value approximately $70 million.

Stella-Jones was established in 1992 to acquire the wood preserving division of Dotmar Inc., whose operations had existed since the early 1900s. Stella-Jones claims to be the only Canadian company in the wood preserving industry to be operating on a national scale.

The company's shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "SJ."


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