Moving headaches at St. Joe Co. …

July 8, 2010

Isn’t it funny how moving is always more expensive than you think it’s going to be?

So no doubt we can all sympathize with The St. Joe Co. (JOE), the timber company turned Florida Panhandle developer on a huge scale. Back in March, the company announced it would be moving its headquarters across the state to one of its own developments in northwestern Florida, from Jacksonville.

In an 8-K filing on March 17, the company estimated it would have at least $1.7 million in layoff expenses, and probably more once relocation and other costs were factored in. Now, according to an 8-K it filed late Wednesday, it thinks the total figure will be near $5 million before taxes, including

“relocation bonuses, temporary lodging expenses, resettlement expenses, tax payments, shipping and storage of household goods and closing costs for housing transactions. These estimates are based on significant assumptions, such as home values, and actual results could differ materially from these estimates.”

In other words, don’t hold your breath, folks — it could go up again.

What’s driving the cost? St. Joe doesn’t get too specific, but a look at that March 17 filing gives some clues — and juicy ones at that, tied to the company’s top executives.

A relocation agreement for Chairman and Chief Executive William Britton Greene, for example, sticks shareholders with the cost of maintaining his old home for 12 months (including mortgage payments, but not long-distance telephone charges), closing costs for selling his old home and buying a new one, moving up to three vehicles, and, of course, shipping, packing and up to six months storage for his household belongings. St. Joe will also reimburse Greene for as much as $150,000 if his old house sells for less than the average of two appraisals — or it might just buy the house from him at that average cost, instead. Plus, he gets his taxes paid on all of the above — and initiation fees to four or more golf and beach clubs (though the guy is on the hook for his own annual dues).

This for a company that trumpeted the “operating efficiencies” it captured back in 2007, by laying off some 15% of its workforce.

Greene’s litany of moving subsidies would seem to cover all the bases. But just in case, he also gets $100,000 to “assist in defraying the incidental cost of relocation,” meaning everything from homeowner association dues, utility hookups, installation of TV aerials and auto registration to transport of pets, and “Tips, food and beverages provided to van line driver/crew.”

The tips and cold drinks are a nice touch — at least St. Joe is looking out for the little guy. We trust Greene will make sure to round up.

Image source: how_long_it_takes via Flickr

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