Mobile Shipyard Purchase Expected

Friday, July 21, 2006
According to the Mobile Register, a former secretary of the U.S. Navy, John Lehman, is negotiating to buy one of Mobile's two largest shipyards, Atlantic Marine officials confirmed Wednesday. Lehman's New York-based firm, J.F. Lehman & Co., is expected to complete the purchase of Atlantic Marine Holding Co. within a few weeks, according to a spokesman for Atlantic Marine. Since its 1992 founding, J.F. Lehman has acquired 13 maritime, defense and aerospace companies through $1.2 billion in transactions, according to the company. Lehman said in a statement that he expected to keep all of Atlantic Marine's 600 employees in Mobile and 650 employees in Jacksonville, Fla.

Lehman's contacts in the shipbuilding industry and access to money that could be used for expansion will be a boon for Atlantic Marine and Mobile.

Atlantic Marine is one of the largest employers along the Mobile River. It operates two adjacent shipyards on Pinto Island -- the Alabama Shipyard for new construction and another for repair work. The company owns about 650 acres in Mobile and has several tenants that lease property, including Austal USA on Blakeley Island. Two of Atlantic Marine's top executives, Chief Executive Officer George Gibbs III and Chief Financial Officer Byron Thompson, plan to retire once the sale is complete, according to Herschel Vinyard, vice president of Atlantic Marine. Gibbs founded the company in 1964 in Jacksonville and formally expanded into Alabama through the 1992 acquisition of Alabama Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Co. Lehman served as Navy secretary under President Reagan and was a member of the 9/11 Commission. His company has offices in New York; Arlington, Va.; and London. Neither party would disclose the value of the deal. This is not the company's first investment with a Mobile connection. In October 2005, J.F. Lehman bought a controlling interest in the parent company of Hawaii Superferry Inc. The Honolulu-based ferry company has a $161 million contract with Austal USA to build two ferries designed to shuttle people and cars among the Hawaiian islands. Both ferries are currently under construction in Mobile. Austal is also an equity partner in the superferry company, providing $17 million in subordinated notes, or loans that are paid only after certain other obligations are met. Atlantic Marine is about a $205 million in revenue company, according to Hoover's Inc. corporate research. In Mobile, it operates the region's largest dry dock, with some of its more high-profile work refurbishing cruise ships. Source: Mobile Register

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