Wednesday, August 1, 2001

C. Brewer’s boss
buying some assets
of his firm

Buyers is acquiring company
headquarters, 3 operating units and
2 Big Isle land parcels

By Russ Lynch

J.W.A. "Doc" Buyers, chairman of C. Brewer & Co., is buying the company's office building, three of its operating companies and two of its Big Island land parcels.

Buyers, 73, declined to disclose what he is paying for the assets.

The private investors who backed him in the 1986 leveraged buyout that brought the company back to Hawaii decided in May to liquidate company, selling off its assets -- including more than 70,000 acres of land -- over several years.

In a statement yesterday, Buyers said the directors agreed to sell him the 14,000-square-foot headquarters building -- the Wainaku Executive Center overlooking Hilo Bay; Kilauea Agronomics, a guava orchard and processing plant on Kauai; Hawaii's Own Corp., a Seattle-based subsidiary that sells frozen juices in Hawaii and several mainland states; land on the Hilo-Hamakua Coast to develop "health, wellness and assisted living facilities near Honomu and Umauma," and all the stock of ML Resources Inc.

ML Resources is the management company for ML Macadamia Nut Orchards, a publicly traded partnership that grows macadamia nuts on more than 4,000 acres of Big Island land.

Buyers said in a telephone interview that it is a very complicated transaction and he is not ready to disclose which specific land parcels he is buying or the terms of the deal.

"This was a difficult transaction for me, as I had to buy back part of C. Brewer that I had built," Buyers said in a letter to friends and government leaders.

"At the 'tender age' of 73, I am undertaking a high-risk strategy much like the LBO (leveraged buyout) in 1986 when I brought the ownership of C. Brewer back to Hawaii," he said.

Buyers said taking ownership back from Philadelphia-based International Utilities Corp., ran the new owners into a debt of nearly $175 million, money borrowed with the company's assets as collateral.

By 1992, the debt had been reduced to a single $60 million loan and while the next eight years were "miserable" for the Hawaii economy, all the debt was paid by the end of last year, Buyers said. He said he tried to float another large loan to take care of the shareholders who had supported the company through its trials "but the bank covenants were too severe, maybe because I was 73 years old."

Buyers said in the letter that he is taking on a new challenge but prefers to do it alone because "I do not want to deal with a board (that has) different goals than I have."

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