Timeline by T’wana Skelton
April 28th 1931: Automotive pioneer, industrialist and philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott buys
the financially troubled Southern Sugar Company and founded U.S. Sugar Corporation.
1962: U.S. Sugar increases production with the opening of its second mill, the Bryant Sugar
House, on the southeastern rim of Lake Okeechobee.
1980s: US Sugar is the largest producer of sugar as Florida becomes the largest sugar-producing
state in the country. US Sugar has reported a six month revenue of $65,500,000.
1983: US Sugar Corp. takes its stock off the market and offers 47 percent of company shares for
purchase by employees for $68 a share.
1987: The United States Sugar Corporation, the nation's largest producer of raw cane sugar, is
acquired by the Sugar Acquisitions Corporation for $80 a share in cash. This deal fully
completes the 1983 process of making the company private by requiring all shares to be tendered.
1989: Palm Beach County officials reported releases of hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid &
sodium hydroxide onto the land for all releases of 250 lbs/yr or more for the years of 1987-89 to
USEPA. US Sugar Corp. began being investigated by the FBI for illegally dumping lead acetate
sludge and releasing this waste as a solution into the canals around the sugar mill.
October 12th 1989: Over 30 FBI agents went into the went into the company’s Bryant Sugar Mill
looking for pollution.
December 9th 1991: U.S. Sugar pleads guilty to eight counts of violating the Federal Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act involving improper handling of hazardous waste and agrees to
pay a $3.75-million fine. Federal officials alleged that the crimes occurred at the company's
Bryant facilities in the Lake Okeechobee area. Federal officials charged the company with illegal
disposal of lead subacetate hazardous wastes in the late 1980s. US Sugar Corp. plead guilty to
releasing about 1 ton of lead /yr since 1940. They make the list of the top 100 corporate criminals
of the 1990 at number 58.
January 1994: Southern Gardens Citrus, a U.S. Sugar subsidiary, begins processing orange juice.
The company shuts down subsidiary South Bay Growers, which employed more than 1,300
people for picking and packing vegetables. As the only sugar company exclusively using rail
transportation to transport sugarcane to its mills, U.S. Sugar purchases South Central Florida
October 1998: U.S. Sugar's Clewiston refinery opens as the first fully integrated cane sugar
refinery built in the United States by transitioning to mechanical harvesting. Refining operations
include the production and packaging of a full spectrum of refined sugar products—from small
retail bags to railcars of bulk sugar.
2002: US Sugar Corp. buys Alcoma Groves, in Gilchrist county. This increases their total citrus
groves to more than 32,000 acres.
2005 & 2007: Tennessee farming company, the Lawrence Group, offers to buy US Sugar Corp.
for $575 million. This deal promises shareholders $293 per share.
April 7th 2007: US Sugar announces the closing of the Bryant House where over 90 million tons
of sugar is ground. The mill was to be dismantled and sold in parts to foreign producers. This
served as a sign of the shrinking American role in the world sugar market. About 150 jobs were
Summer 2007: Lake Okeechobee water level falls to a record low which causes US Sugar to face
problems drawing enough water from the lake to irrigate its nearby sugar fields. US Sugar
proposed pumping the treated wastewater from its factories into the lake but the South Florida
Water Management District were turned down by the agency which manages water use in South
April 2008: US Sugar shareholders receives a letter in the mail stating a $50 million drop in
revenues, a profit margin gone negative, a $4.5 million loss for US Sugar Corp in 2007.
January 31st 2008: Ex-workers of US Sugar file a federal lawsuit claiming U.S. Sugar hid from
shareholders a $575 million buyout offer from Tennessee farming company, the Lawrence Group
in 2005 and 2007.
June 24th 2008: Malcolm “Bubba” Wade Jr. resigns from the board of the South Florida Water
management district. Wade was previously senior vice president at US Sugar. He states he
resigned to “avoid the appearance of conflict” in the deal between US Sugar and the SFWMD.
Wade Jr. served on the SFWMD Governing Board and is a Water Resources Advisory
Commission member. He was also appointed as Chair of the WRAC Lake Okeechobee
June 24th 2008: The South Florida Water Management District enters into a statement of
principles with US Sugar Corporation for the possible acquisition of 187,000 acres of land and
assets including the mills and railroad owned by US Sugar Corp.
August 21st 2008: The state hires New York based financial firm Duff & Phelps as a financial
independent advisor to the South Florida Water Management District to come up with a fairness
opinion from a financial point of view of the proposed $1.75 billion deal which includes the land
and assets of US Sugar Corp.
September 14th, 2008: Lehman Brothers, one of the proposed underwriters for the deal files for
bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch another underwriter faces similar financial troubles and agrees to sell
itself to Bank of America.
October 1st 2008: Duff and Phelps indicates to the board that they will find the transaction fair at
a price at or below $1.3 billion. This is not a final fairness opinion.
October 9th 2008: The South Florida Water Management board signs agreements that will let the
water district borrow up to $2.2 billion, if necessary, to buy the sugar giant and its 187,000 acres.
The district hopes to increase their credit limit by 50%.
November 12th 2008: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist holds a press conference in Miami to announce
a newly revised deal that would allow US Sugar to keep a high-tech sugar mill in Clewiston, a
citrus processing plant, the railroad and stay in business for up to 7 years by leasing back the land
for $50 per acre a year. The changes would cut the price tag by about $400 million, reducing it to
approximately $1.34 billion from $1.75 billion.
November 13th 2008: Water managers took steps to issue up to $2.2 billion of special
government bonds, known as certificates of participation, to cover the cost of the land and some
of the filter marshes, reservoirs and other components of the restoration efforts.
November 19th 2008: Tennessee based farmland owner, the Lawrence Group, makes a offer to
US Sugar Corp’s. shareholders to buy US Sugar covering all of its approximate $700 million
debt. The company offers shareholders an estimated $300 per share. In the past three years, US
Sugar rejected offers of $293 per share which wasn’t publicly released because of a
confidentiality agreement that was signed between the two companies.
November 24th 2008: The Lawrence Group takes out full page ads in major newspapers
including the Palm Beach Post asking US Sugar employees to accept their buyout offer.
November 29th 2008: The Lawrence Group sends the offer to US Sugar Corp. officials.
December 2nd 2008: Duff & Phelps presents their findings to the board of directors at
the South Florida Water Management meeting. Board director, Mike Collins asks them
to provide another fairness opinion for the land only deal.
December 16th 2008: Board members are set to make the final vote on the deal.