Although many articles and news reports have been written about Nathan Deal and the now infamous Salvage Yard in Gainesville, GA., there always felt like there were still many unanswered questions. If you are unaware of the backstory then before you read further I suggest you click this link to the New York Times which explains the original reason why Deal resigned from Congress. Ethics Report Faults Ex-Congressman Now that article was written back in 2010 while Deal was running for governor but it is important to understand the timeline and backstory.
Now skip ahead to May 14, 2013 when Deal’s so-called “blind trust” (that in reality is as all-seeing as Sauron from the Lord of the Rings) sold Gainesville Salvage Disposal to Copart which is a Texas based company that owed Georgia $74M in back taxes and penalties. The business was sold for $4 million but here is where things get very strange. Deal and his partner still owned the actual land and receive $240,000 per year in lease payments. At the end of 10 years Copart can buy the land at a little over $4.8 million dollars.
10 year lease payment $2.4 Million
Land purchase price in 10 years $4.8 Million (Additional)
Total Cost to Copart for Business, lease, and land purchase $11.2 Million
Now does that strike anyone else as a bit odd? These numbers simply seem completely out of whack. Furthermore, why would Copart ever agree to leasing land for 10 years instead of simply buying the land with the business back in May, 2013? If the land itself was valued at $7.2 Million back in May when they bought the business then it might make a bit more sense, but it wasn’t valued anywhere close to that. Perhaps they had some accounting or other legitimate reasons to lease for 10 years then buy it for $4.8 Million. So out of curiosity I went to the Hall County records and decided to do a property search for 1602 ATHENS HWY which is the address of the salvage yard.
The records only were displayed for the last two years. As you can see Nathan Deal, as well as C&D Auto Transport, C&D Investments, and Recovery Services Inc are all shown for that address. I am not sure why Recovery Services and both the C&D names were only listed for 2013 but not for years 2012 or 2014. Notice that these smaller companies do not own any property nor did they pay or owe any taxes.
In 2013 Recovery Services 100% FMV (Fair Market Value) was listed as $198,919. They owned no acres so I assumed leased part of the building or property and paid $2,234.88 in taxes.
In 2013 C&D Auto Transport 100% FMV was listed as $6,650 with no tax bill duel.
In 2013 C&D Investments 100% FMV was listed as $1,358 with no tax bill due.
In 2013 DEAL J NATHAN 100% FMV $512,308 on 26.3200 Acres. Original Tax bill $5,748.09 with a Due Date 12/01/2013. Amount Paid $5,805.57 on 12/31/2013
Two points of interest here. First of all, the Governor that touts his business acumen couldn’t even manage to pay his taxes on time. What sort of example does that set? His 2014 tax bill is $5,612.58 and has yet to be paid. Let’s hope he manages to pay on time this year.
The second point of interest is the number of acres. It is listed as 26.32. Copart already bought the buildings outright for $4 Million. I would like to know how property that Nathan Deal will eventually sell for a total of $11.2 Million is only valued at $512,308. I imagine they are given a tax incentive as a business but that seems to be a rather excessive discount. They appear to be paying this rate Hall County (Unincorporated areas) : 1.095% of FMV
I asked a friend of mine who is commercial real estate broker and he also said the math simply did not add up an something appeared odd with the sale price and assessed land price and taxes.
There are several missing millions in assessed fair market value vs. the agreed upon total sales price. More importantly it must be noted Deal had been trying to sell the property for several years. As anyone that has tried to sell a house for a few years will tell you, the only way to sell after that long is to drop your asking price. I have never heard a case where an eager seller raises the price after several years of unsuccessfully trying to sell and then a gullible buyers magically falls into your lap who also coincidentally owes the state $74 million in taxes. That dog won’t hunt.
He was also late paying taxes with another property he owns. This doesn’t seem to be an oversight or a mistake because he owns several other pieces of property including more acreage and a personal home where the taxes for those years were paid on time.
But aside from a Governor paying his taxes late which is extremely humiliating, I cannot seem to wrap my head as to why Copart would agree to pay of total of $11.2 Million for what was reported as a failed salvage yard. It would be far cheaper for them to simply buy land and build their own brand new building. or shop around for other salvage yards in the state with a more reasonable asking price and purchase terms. Now let’s not forget that as recently as 2011 his Salvage yard owed $2M. His business partner Keneth Cronan took out a $2.85M loan in 2009. The loan was presumably taken out for business expansion in Metter, GA and day to day operations. Cronan said loans were also used to refinance and add on to some $1.7 million in existing loans. According to a Accessnorthga.com in 2010.
“While Deal initially said the land was worth between $100,000 and $200,000, his filings on Thursday suddenly put its worth at $600,000. Local tax officials have assessed it at nearly $304,000. Deal’s camp said the land in Metter, about 60 miles west of Savannah, is zoned for salvage operations, making it more valuable than it might otherwise appear.”
“The biggest boost in Deal’s asset column came when he added in $2.5 million in land for Gainesville Salvage and Disposal. That is half the $5 million value the property is appraised for by banks making the company loans. Deal is half owner of the property, so was he given half the value of the property. “
“The new report filed with the state Ethics Commission on Thursday also notes that Deal’s campaign manager and former congressional Chief of Staff Chris Riley owes Deal $120,000 for the purchase of 14 acres of land adjoining Deal’s North Hall property. Riley purchased the property from his boss in two separate transactions in 2003 and 2008. Instead of taking out a loan for the $175,000 cost, Riley said he is paying Deal back directly with 6 percent interest. Riley said he paid fair market value for the land $15,000 an acre which he said used to be his family’s old farm. “
Here is what I find especially odd. Numerous reports suggest the Salvage Yard was not exactly earning profits hand over fist. There were at least $2M in outstanding unpaid debt and loans and possibly more. Copart as a large company obviously has some excellent bean counters and lawyers so they are not novice or gullible buyers. When a failing or at least barely profitable business is eagerly looking for a buyer you can certainly expect that buyer to conduct due diligence and use the leverage of debt and the eagerness of the seller during negotiation. Why would Copart then decide to pay what appears to be far above Fair Market Value given the eagerness of Deal and Cronan to sell. Are they really that poor at assessing value and negotiations or is there something else going on here?
The salvage firm once held a lucrative no-bid agreement with the state to provide space for state employees to inspect rebuilt salvaged cars. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported during the last gubernatorial campaign that Deal, then a congressman, personally intervened with state officials who wanted to open the program to more locations. The story led to an ethics complaint and a congressional investigation. So once there was some spotlight on their monopolistic and unethical dealings with the state, the salvage yard ceased to be the profitable cash cow it had been before the media found out about this cushy arrangement. It was indubitably more difficult to be quite as profitable once you actually have to compete against competitors on a more level playing field.
I continued digging a bit further. Nathan Deal’s business partner Ken Cronan has past ties with Copart. In fact, Cronan was a member of the used parts division of the state Board of Registration of Used Motor Vehicles in August 2005 when it approved licenses for the company to operate in Georgia. In other words Cronan was the guy who served on the state board that approved Copart’s license to operate in Georgia. How is that for some leverage when you are then asking them to buy your business. Now Cronan and Deal are suddenly Copart’s landlords and each are earning $10,000 in land rent a month.
It is extremely important to remember that Copart owed and owes Georgia $74M in taxes. Nathan Deal’s attorney Randy Evans said “ the governor had tried to sell the business since he took office in 2011. (Proves eagerness and urgency to sell) Although the property was managed in a blind trust, Deal still signed off on the final sale. There was no reason, if you’re fully vested in being the governor, to have another business out there,” Evans said. “Once he was elected he recognized that was a full-time job and he didn’t want any suggestion of a crossover between the two.” Funny, isn’t being a congressman also a full-time job?
Perhaps the timing had far more to do with longstanding ethics charges in addition to the business no longer being as profitable without that monopoly it had once enjoyed with state contracts thanks to Deal’s “influence”. Deal for years had a no-bid agreement with the state that paid the partners nearly $300,000 a year over a 20-year agreement. The AJC found that Deal and his staff fought to preserve the arrangement, telling state officials that it helped keep unsafe vehicles off Georgia’s streets.
Randy Evans was also quoted as saying in reference to Deal’s debts and financial situation “It has steadied because of this sale. If you have an infusion of a few million dollars plus a monthly rental, you can only feel it’s a positive. I think his financial footing will be stronger than ever and he’ll have Gainesville Salvage in the history books.” Talk about the understatement of the year. I wonder how many of the people without jobs in Georgia thanks to our nation leading unemployment rate wouldn’t love to sell some property way above market value and continue to get a fat monthly lease check for 10 years.
Is Nathan “Raw” Deal simply following in the footsteps of Sonny “Go Fish” Perdue? One thing is certain, the citizens of Georgia are entitled to a full forensic audit of these very sketchy and simply unbelievably advantageous business sale by his blind trust which isn’t very blind. When you have a few coincidences you can brush it off, but something smells very rotten in Gainesville, GA besides the salvage yard and we deserve answers. The more I learned about this business deal the more questions I have and only a detailed police forensic audit can uncover the truth. With Sam Olens as attorney general we will likely be waiting a very long time for any such audit by any state agency. Let’s hope the feds are on the case.
2 thoughts on “Questions Remain on Gainesville Salvage and Disposal Sale To Copart”
Is the time bomb of the FBI investigation still ticking? I read some minor articles in the AJC concerning their involvement about a year ago although I don’t remember the exact details. I know they can lurk in the background for years. I believe they became involved through The Georgia Campaign and Finance Commission.
The FBI was super slow with Virginia governor McDonnell but as far as I have heard, the file on Nathan Deal is still active. And it seems like every month there are new reasons to add more to that file.