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Sierra Pacific Industries

Sierra Pacific Industries


19794 Riverside Avenue
Anderson, California 96007
U.S.A. Telephone: (530) 378-8000
Fax: (530) 378-8109
Web site: http://www.spi-ind.com

Private Company
Incorporated:
1951
Employees: 4,000
Sales: $1.57 billion (2005 est.)
NAIC: 113310 Logging; 321912 Cut Stock, Resawing Lumber, and Planing; 321113 Sawmills; 321212 Softwood Veneer and Plywood Manufacturing; 322110 Pulp Mills; 322211 Corrugated and Solid Fiber Box Manufacturing; 321911 Wood Window and Door Manufacturing; 322121 Paper (Except Newsprint) Mills

Sierra Pacific Industries owns and manages nearly 1.7 million acres of forestland in California and the northern Cascades mountain range in Washington. The company has operations in millwork, lumber, wood, and fiber products and also manufactures patio doors and specialty windows. Sierra Pacific converts wood waste into energy and operates seven cogeneration facilities that produce over 100 megawatts of energy used by Californians. Environmentalists have protested the company's clear-cutting practices. Sierra Pacific harvests just over 1 percent of its land each year and claims to replant an average of seven trees for each tree harvested.

FOUNDER'S ORIGINS

Archie Aldis "Red" Emmerson began learning the forest products business as a young child, when he watched his father build crude, temporary sawmills in the family backyard. Red Emmerson was a toddler at the time, living in Newburg, Oregon, with his mother, Emily, and his father, Raleigh Humes "Curly" Emmerson. Newburg was in forest country, part of the timber-rich Pacific Northwest, where nearly every occupation during the early decades of the 20th century had something to do with timber and its derivatives. Curly Emmerson was no exception, but his years in Newburg as a sawmill operator were not successful. His business failed, and by the time Red was five years old, he and his wife had decided to go their separate ways. Curly Emmerson eventually left Newburg and headed south to northern California. Emily Emmerson remained in Newburg, in charge of raising Red.

Emily Emmerson did not assume the sole responsibility of raising Red for long; she left that duty to others, namely Seventh Day Adventists. After his parents were divorced, Red Emmerson was sent to a small town in eastern Washington state named Spangle. There, the young Emmerson attended a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school called the Upper Columbia Academy. Emmerson proved to an industrious worker at a young age. He put himself through school by attending to the school farm and by driving a truck, for which he earned 35 cents an hour. Emmerson also spent one summer working on a cattle ranch. His penchant for extracurricular labor aside, Emmerson did not fair well at the Upper Columbia Academy, at least in the minds of those in charge of the boarding school. The Seventh Day Adventists failed to produce their desired results with Emmerson, and expelled him for hanging a condom on a classroom chalkboard. It was time for Emmerson to move on once again.

With his days at Upper Columbia Academy at an end, Emmerson moved to northeastern Washington state to finish his education at a public high school in Omak, in the heart of the state's cattle country. By the time Emmerson had finished high school, he had been exposed to three localities dominated by their natural environment: Newburg by vast tracts of timber, Spangle by endless fields of agricultural crops, and Omak by multitudinous herds of cattle. For his future, Emmerson did not select any of these communities, but he returned to his roots in a sense by reuniting with his father in northern California, where towering forests were as plentiful as in Newburg. From the end of his high school years forward, the theretofore itinerant Red Emmerson remained in northern California, becoming by the century's end the largest private landowner in the United States.

Emmerson did not rise to such lofty heights on his own. Initially, he had the help of his father, and together they built the foundation for Sierra Pacific Industries. When Emmerson joined his father in northern California, his father was working in the lumber business. Red followed Curly's lead, and finished up his teenage years as a greenchain puller piling lumber as it exited the sawmill. The industriousness that had demonstrated itself at a young age continued to be displayed as Emmerson entered adulthood. By the time he was 20 years old Emmerson and his father had leased a sawmill; two years later, in 1951, the father and son team had built a mill of their own, and Red Emmerson was managing the entire business.

POST-1950 DEVELOPMENT

Together, the two Emmersons fared better in the forest products business than Curly Emmerson had done 20 years earlier with little Red Emmerson watching nearby. With Red Emmerson taking on nearly all of the managerial duties associated with running the company at an early age, much of the credit for Sierra Pacific's survival went to him. However, survival was not an easy accomplishment during the era when Red Emmerson took command. The wave of prosperity created after World War II rejuvenated many industries, including the construction industry, which was the largest single market for lumber companies such as Sierra Pacific. The demand for new housing, which had remained stifled during the country's decade-long Great Depression and inhibited to a large extent during the war, sharply increased during the postwar years, making the harvesting and manufacture of timber a lucrative business to enter. As a result, the number of lumber mills in operation soared, but as more and more new lumber companies entered the business and satisfied the demand for construction lumber, competition within the industry became increasingly severe. Such was the case during the 1960s when Emmerson was directing the fortunes of Sierra Pacific.

Small, undercapitalized lumber companies were forced to exit the business, engendering a precipitous drop in the number of mills in operation throughout the country. From 1950 to 1970, the number of lumber mills in the United States plunged from more than 50,000 to less than 35,000, as the lumber industry underwent two decades of significant change. In the new business environment created during this span, the logging and manufacture of timber became an industry in which only those companies able to make efficient use of raw materials could effectively compete. Integrated plants that used as much of a log as possible became crucial to success in logging's new era, a period in which the manufacture of plywood, particleboard, and paper became integral contributors to a lumber company's profitability. Well-financed companies able to change with the times and incorporate new logging and manufacturing techniques into their operations were able to flourish, while others dropped by the wayside.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES


Under three generations of Emmerson family ownership, Sierra Pacific Industries has remained committed to maintaining healthy forests and providing the highest quality wood products for our customers. Our mission is to: to conserve the productive basis of the land and associated resources; to maintain the integrity of biological and ecological processes through sustainable forestry principles; and to produce the highest quality consumer products and other services.

Not far north of Sierra Pacific's operations in northern California, market conditions were particularly harsh, and their severity did not recognize state borders. In Oregon, the number of lumber mills plummeted between 1950 and 1970, falling from 1,455 to a mere 450. As elsewhere, the necessity for efficiency and diversification had weeded out those companies unable to change with the times. Under Emmerson's stewardship, Sierra Pacific not only changed with the times but it sometimes took the lead as an innovator. For instance, well before paving mill yards became a common practice, Emmerson paved his, an innovation that reduced man-hours in the loading yard and prevented his saws from getting jammed by gravel and mud clinging to uncut timber. Less damage to the saws meant less time spent changing dull saws, saving further money for the company.

After two decades of disruptive change dramatically altered the face of the timber industry, those companies that had survived did not settle into a more peaceful period of existence. The decade between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s was framed by two painful economic recessions, forcing timber companies such as Sierra Pacific to either adapt to the economic environment or beat a hasty retreat. Chiefly to blame were rising interest rates, which crippled the construction market, and inexpensive timber from Canada and the southern United States. Many timber companies failed to adapt to new economic conditions and another instance of corporate Darwinism swept through the industry, weeding out those companies that could not measure up to the times. Sierra Pacific took full advantage of the situation and managed to record enviable growth as other companies struggled to survive. Between 1976 and 1986, the company spent roughly $60 million acquiring the assets of its financially strapped competitors. Sierra Pacific's remarkable progress did not go unnoticed, as one timber leader, Louisiana-Pacific Corporation's chairman Harry Merlo, testified in a 1997 article in Forbes, "As people got out of sawmilling, what did they do? They sold their assets to Red. He was the last man standing."

Having withstood the test of times and enduredeven prosperedduring anemic economic conditions, Sierra Pacific exited the mid-1980s in good stead. Ahead, however, loomed disastrous trouble. The potential problem for the company stemmed from a series of amendments to the 1964 Wilderness Act that began in 1976. These amendments and other legislation were increasingly reducing the amount of land available for timber harvests on public land, causing great concern among those forest products companies that lacked their own timber acreage. Sierra Pacific was one of those anxiety-ridden forest products companies.

The crescendo of debate over the use of publicly owned timberland for logging reached its peak in 1987, when a storm of controversy was touched off over concern for the Northern Spotted Owl. For Sierra Pacific, the situation quickly became grave. All its mills were in northern California, where large factions of environmentalists were struggling mightily to curtail logging on great stretches of public forestlandand succeeding. Emmerson was forced into a choice. "It was either buy land," he concluded, "or go broke." In his mind, there was not much debate over the two choices. "This business is the only thing I knew how to do," he later related in the 1997 Forbes article. "This was my home. Where else was I going to go?"

1987: TIMBER HOLDINGS BEGIN TO ACCUMULATE

His mind resolved on pushing ahead and gaining a sizable amount of private timberland to feed his mills, Emmerson made his decision at a fortuitous time. In 1987, the giant railroad company Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. was implementing a strategic plan to concentrate on its core business. An integral facet of this plan required that the company shed interests outside the scope of its score business, which included 522,000 acres of California timberland it owned. The land was put up for sale and Emmerson grabbed it, risking nearly everything he owned to do so.

KEY DATES


1949:
R. H. Curly Emmerson and son Red lease a mill in Humboldt County.
1951:
Construction is completed on a small mill in Arcata.
1976:
Amendments are made to the 1964 Wilderness Act that reduce the amount of land available for timber harvests on public land.
1987:
The company buys 522,000 acres of California timberland owned by Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corporation.
1997:
Sierra Pacific pays $50 million to Louisiana-Pacific for a 38,000-acre plot of white fir and pine in northern California; Emmerson becomes the largest private landowner in the United States for a short time.
2000:
Environmentalists attack Sierra Pacific's future plans for clear-cutting.

To complete the transaction, Emmerson offered all ten of Sierra Pacific's mills as collateral and convinced a syndicate of a dozen banks to lend him the $460 million needed to buy Santa Fe's timberland. "I hocked my heart and soul," Emmerson remembered in Forbes, and received criticism for his risky move. Some industry pundits believed the $880-per-acre purchase price was too high, and further skepticism erupted when the stock market crashed in October 1987. When the sale was closed, however, all those who muttered that Red Emmerson had made the mistake of his life were quickly silenced. Shortly after the deal was completed, the U.S. Forestry Service began restricting timber harvests on public lands in response to numerous court orders. The value of privately owned timberland quickly skyrocketed, nearly doubling overnight. "We were lucky," Emmerson noted. "I bought that land because it was available, not because it was strategic."

Once convinced of the soundness in purchasing timberland, Emmerson became an irrepressible advocate of buying as much land as possible. "You can never own too much land," he declared in Forbes, "because you never know what other restrictions will be coming down the pipe." After recording phenomenal success with the Santa Fe deal, Emmerson spent the next eight years buying land, laying out more than $600 million to acquire 400,000 acres.

Emmerson's penchant for acquiring tracts of timberland continued to demonstrate itself during the late 1990s. In May 1997, Sierra Pacific paid $50 million to Louisiana-Pacific for a 38,000-acre plot of white fir and pine in northern California. Although the acreage gained in the deal was relatively small compared to the more than one million acres under Emmerson's control, the deal had a symbolic importance. With the 38,000 acres gained, Emmerson became the largest private landowner in the United States, slipping past Ted Turner for a short time before Turner usurped Emmerson's position. It was a feat essentially achieved in one decade's time, and as Emmerson scanned the horizon into future decades additional land acquisitions seemed more than likely. Nearing his seventies as the 1990s drew to a close, Emmerson had developed a voracious appetite for land late in life. The intensity of his desire for land was perhaps the single most important factor in Sierra Pacific's existence. With the next generation of Emmersons working beneath him at Sierra Pacific, Red Emmerson likely was imparting the importance of land ownership to his children: the inheritors of his business and the leaders of Sierra Pacific's future.

SIERRA PACIFIC IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Sierra Pacific spent much of the early years of the new millennium fending off attacks related to its clear-cutting practices. A June 2000 San Francisco Chronicle article described a 20-acre clear-cut in the Sierra Nevada as "a blank spot in the forest, a treeless zone, littered with charred stumps." During this time period, the company outlined a plan in which it would clear-cut much of the land it owned over the next 100 years and then plant new trees in its place. Residents in clear-cutting areas balked at the idea of local forestlands being turned into tree plantations. Industry practices in the past included selective cutting, in which loggers would harvest only the best trees in select areas of the Sierra Nevada. Opponents of selective cutting claimed it had left the weakest trees behind and made the western forestlands prone to large wildfires. The California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection agreed and backed Sierra Pacific's plan to clear-cut approximately 10,000 acres per year for the next 100 years. "By clear cutting, we're planting superior trees and getting rid of the bad stuff. It's no different than farming," claimed Emmerson in a May 2004 Wall Street Journal article.

While environmentalists doggedly protested the clear-cutting practices of the company, Sierra Pacific claimed to be growing more timber than it harvested. It also began selling parcels of land to Trust for Public Land, a conservation group based in San Francisco. At the same time, it was converting wood waste into energy through seven cogeneration plants. This energy was sold to public utilities and energy service providers in California.

By this time, Sierra Pacific owned and managed over 1.7 million acres of forestland in the Coast, Klamath, Cascade, and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges of California, and the northern Cascades mountain range in Washington. According to the company's web site, it harvested 1.2 percent of its land each year and replanted within one year. The average tree size at harvest time was 18 inches in diameter, while 100 years from now, the company hoped to be harvesting trees 30 inches in diameter.

Emmerson firmly believed that clear-cutting was necessary for Sierra Pacific's future survival and with sons Mark and George poised to take the helm in coming years, Sierra Pacific Industries stood strong in its convictions. While the company's practices would no doubt continue to come under fire by environmentalists, Sierra Pacific appeared to be well positioned to provide wood products to its customers for years to come.

Jeffrey L. Covell

Updated, Christina Stansell Weaver

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Georgia-Pacific Corporation; Louisiana-Pacific Corporation; Weyerhaeuser Company; Andersen Corporation.

FURTHER READING

Carlton, Jim, "Forest Fire: In the Sierras, a Raging Debate over Clear-Cutting," Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2004, p. A1.

DeLacy, Ron, "California's Sierra Pacific Wants Fibreboard's Wood Products Division," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 20, 1995, p. 6.

Denne, Lorianne, "'War' on Clearcutting May Be Headed This Way," Puget Sound Business Journal, April 1, 1991, p. 11.

Glover, Mark, "Sierra Pacific Industries Halts Negotiations to Buy California Sawmill," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, January 5, 1994, p. 1.

Graebner, Lynn, "Camino Mill Sale Collapses; Future Is Unclear," Business Journal Serving Greater Sacramento, January 10, 1994, p. 10.

Hawn, Carleen, "What the Spotted Owl Did for Red Emmerson," Forbes, October 13, 1997, p. 82.

"L-P to Sell California Coastal Timberland," Pulp & Paper, July 1997, p. 29.

Martin, Glen, "Sierra Land Deal Announced," San Francisco Chronicle, June 5, 2001, p. A3.

, "Sierra Town Draws a Line in the Forest," San Francisco Chronicle, June 26, 2000, p. A1.

Schnitt, Paul, "Lumber Mill in California's Amador County Shuts Down," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, January 31, 1997, p. 13.

Siu, Merek, "Criticism of Salvage Logging Grows," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, July 2, 2007, p. 1.

Swett, Clint, "California Lumber Mill's Workers Uneasy After Buyout," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, December 27, 1996, p. 12.

, "Sale Rescues Camino, Calif., Lumber Mill's 280 Jobs," Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, May 8, 1994, p. 5.

Thompson, Don, "Conservation Group Buys Sierra Forest Land for Public Use," Associated Press Newswires, April 23, 2003.

, "Rival Loggers Flee, but Sierra Pacific Stays and Thrives," San Diego Union-Tribune, July 15, 2000.

"Two Buyers Found for Bohemia Assets," Forest Industries, September 1991, p. 6.

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Sierra Pacific Industries

Sierra Pacific Industries

P.O. Box 496028
Redding, California 96049
U.S.A.
(216) 267-4870
Fax: (216) 267-7876

Private Company
Incorporated: 1951
Employees: 3,200
Sales: $1 billion (1997 est.)
SICs: 2411 Logging; 2421 Sawmills & Planing Mills-General; 2436 Softwood Veneer & Plywood; 2611 Pulp Mills; 2653 Corrugated & Solid Fiber Boxes; 2431 Millwork; 2621 Paper Mills

The largest timber company in California, Sierra Pacific Industries harvests and mills timber in northern California. During the late 1990s, Sierra Pacific produced an estimated 1.3 billion board feet annually, ranking as the third-largest producer of lumber in the country behind Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific. The timber to produce the lumber was logged from 1,332,000 acres of land controlled by the company and its owners, the Emmerson family. At the head of the family was Red Emmerson, who began the business with his father. By virtue of the vast tracts of prime timberland owned by Sierra Pacific, Emmerson ranked as the largest private landowner in the country, a distinction he attained by eclipsing media mogul Ted Turner in 1997.

Founders Origins

Archie Aldis Red Emmerson began learning the forest products business as a young child, when he watched his father build crude, temporary sawmills in the family backyard. Red Emmerson was a toddler at the time, living in Newburg, Oregon, with his mother, Emily, and his father, Raleigh Humes Curly Emmerson. Newburg was in forest country, part of the timber-rich Pacific Northwest, where nearly every occupation during the early decades of the 20th century had something to do with timber and its derivatives. Curly Emmerson was no exception, but his years in Newburg as a sawmill operator were not successful. His business failed, and by the time Red was five years old, he and his wife had decided to go their separate ways. Curly Emmerson eventually left Newburg and headed south to northern California. Emily Emmerson remained in Newburg, in charge of raising Red.

Emily Emmerson did not assume the sole responsibility of raising Red for long; she left that duty to others, namely Seventh Day Adventists. After his parents were divorced, Red Emmerson was sent to a small town in eastern Washington State named Spangle. There, the young Emmerson attended a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school called the Upper Columbia Academy. Emmerson proved to an industrious worker at a young age. He put himself through school by attending to the school farm and by driving a truck, for which he earned 35 cents an hour. Emmerson also spent one summer working on a cattle ranch. His penchant for extracurricular labor aside, Emmerson did not fair well at the Upper Columbia Academy, at least in the minds of those in charge of the boarding school. The Seventh Day Adventists failed to produce their desired results with Emmerson, and expelled him for hanging a condom on a classroom chalkboard. It was time for Emmerson to move on once again.

With his days at Upper Columbia Academy at an end, Emmerson moved to northeastern Washington State to finish his education at a public high school in Omak, in the heart of the states cattle country. By the time Emmerson had finished high school, he had been exposed to three localities dominated by their natural environment: Newburg by vast tracts of timber, Spangle by endless fields of agricultural crops, and Omak by multitudinous herds of cattle. For his future, Emmerson did not select any of these communities, but he returned to his roots in a sense by reuniting with his father in northern California, where towering forests were as plentiful as in Newburg. From the end of his high school years forward, the theretofore itinerant Red Emmerson remained in northern California, becoming by the centurys end the largest private landowner in the United States.

Emmerson did not raise to such lofty heights on his own. Initially, he had the help of his father, and together they built the foundation for the Sierra Pacific Industries of the 1990s. When Emmerson joined his father in northern California, his father was working in the lumber business. Red followed Curlys lead, and finished up his teenage years as a greenchain puller piling lumber as it exited the sawmill. The industriousness that had demonstrated itself at a young age continued to be displayed as Emmerson entered adulthood: By the time he was 20 years old Emmerson and his father had leased a sawmill; two years later, the father and son team had built a mill of their own, and Red Emmerson was managing the entire business.

Post-1950s Development

Together, the two Emmersons fared better in the forest products business than Curly Emmerson had done 20 years earlier with little Red Emmerson watching nearby. With Red Emmerson taking on nearly all of the managerial duties associated with running the company at an early age, much of the credit for Sierra Pacifics survival went to him. And survival was not an easy accomplishment during the era when Red Emmerson took command. The wave of prosperity created after World War II rejuvenated many industries, including the construction industry, which was the largest single market for lumber companies such as Sierra Pacific. The demand for new housing, which had remained stifled during the countrys decade-long Depression and inhibited to a large extent during the war, sharply increased during the postwar years, making the harvesting and manufacture of timber a lucrative business to enter. As a result, the number of lumber mills in operation soared, but as more and more new lumber companies entered the business and satisfied the demand for construction lumber, competition within the industry became increasingly severe. Such was the case during the 1960s when Emmerson was directing the fortunes of Sierra Pacific.

Small, under-capitalized lumber companies were forced to exit the business, engendering a precipitous drop in the number of mills in operation throughout the country. From 1950 to 1970, the number of lumber mills in the United States plunged from more than 50,000 to less than 35,000, as the lumber industry underwent two decades of significant change. In the new business environment created during this span, the logging and manufacture of timber became an industry in which only those companies able to make efficient use of raw materials could effectively compete. Integrated plants that used as much of a log as possible became crucial to success in loggings new era, a period in which the manufacture of plywood, particle-board, and paper became integral contributors to a lumber companys profitability. Well-financed companies able to change with the times and incorporate new logging and manufacturing techniques into their operations were able to flourish, while others dropped by the wayside.

Not far north of Sierra Pacifics operations in northern California, market conditions were particularly harsh, and their severity did not recognize state borders. In Oregon, the number of lumber mills plummeted between 1950 and 1970, falling from 1,455 to a mere 450. As elsewhere, the necessity for efficiency and diversification had weeded out those companies unable to change with the times. Under Emmersons stewardship, Sierra Pacific not only changed with the times but it sometimes took the lead as an innovator. For instance, well before paving mill yards became a common practice, Emmerson paved his, an innovation that reduced man-hours in the loading yard and prevented his saws from getting jammed by gravel and mud clinging to uncut timber. Less damage to the saws meant less time spent changing dull saws, saving further money for the company.

After two decades of disruptive change dramatically altered the face of the timber industry, those companies that had survived did not settle into a more peaceful period of existence. The decade between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s was framed by two painful economic recessions, forcing timber companies such as Sierra Pacific to either adapt to the economic environment or beat a hasty retreat. Chiefly to blame were rising interest rates, which crippled the construction market, and cheap timber from Canada and the southern United States. Many timber companies failed to adapt to new economic conditions and another instance of corporate Darwinism swept through the industry, weeding out those companies that could not measure up to the times. Sierra Pacific took full advantage of the situation and managed to record enviable growth as other companies struggled to survive. Between 1976 and 1986, the company spent roughly $60 million acquiring the assets of its financially strapped competitors. Sierra Pacifics remarkable progress did not go unnoticed, as one timber leader, Louisiana Pacific Corp.s chairman Harry Merlo, testified, As people got out of sawmilling, what did they do? They sold their assets to Red. He was the last man standing.

Having withstood the test of times and enduredeven prosperedduring anemic economic conditions, Sierra Pacific exited the mid-1980s in good stead. Ahead, however, loomed disastrous trouble. The potential problem for the company stemmed from a series of amendments to the 1964 Wilderness Act that began in 1976. These amendments and other legislation were increasingly reducing the amount of land available for timber harvests on public land, causing great concern among those forest products companies that lacked their own timber acreage. Sierra Pacific was one of those anxiety-ridden forest products companies.

Company Perspectives:

Sierra Pacifics confidence in the future is solidly rooted in some of the finest timberland in the world. Stretching from near the Oregon border on the Pacific Coast to the Lake Tahoe area of central California, Sierra Pacific lands grow Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, White Fir, Douglas Fir and Cedar. The land includes one of the first official tree farms in California, which has produced three timber harvests since 1944. Sierra Pacific lands represent the largest private industrial forest ownership in California.

The crescendo of debate over the use of publicly owned timberland for logging reached its peak in 1987, when a storm of controversy was touched off over concern for the Northern Spotted Owl. For Sierra Pacific, the situation quickly became grave. All its mills were in northern California, where large factions of environmentalists were struggling mightily to curtail logging on great stretches of public forestlandand succeeding. Emmerson was forced into a choice. It was either buy land, he concluded, or go broke. In his mind, there was not much debate over the two choices. This business is the only thing I knew how to do, he later related. This was my home. Where else was I going to go?

1987: Timber Holdings Begin to Accumulate

His mind resolved on pushing ahead and gaining a sizeable amount of private timberland to feed his mills, Emmerson made his decision at a fortuitous time. In 1987, the giant railroad company Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. was implementing a strategic plan to concentrate on its core business. An integral facet of this plan required that the company shed interests outside the scope of its score business, which included 522,000 acres of California timberland it owned. The land was put up for sale and Emmerson grabbed it, risking nearly everything he owned to do so.

To complete the transaction, Emmerson offered all 10 of Sierra Pacifics mills as collateral and convinced a syndicate of a dozen banks to lend him the $460 million needed to buy Santa Fes timberland. I hocked my heart and soul, Emmerson remembered, and received criticism for his risky move. Some industry pundits believed the $880-per-acre purchase price was too high, and further skepticism erupted when the stock market crashed in October 1987. When the sale was closed, however, all those who muttered that Red Emmerson had made the mistake of his life were quickly silenced. Shortly after the deal was completed, the U.S. Forestry Service began restricting timber harvests on public lands in response to numerous court orders. The value of privately-owned timberland quickly skyrocketed, nearly doubling overnight. We were lucky, Emmerson noted. I bought that land because it was available, not because it was strategic.

Once convinced of the soundness in purchasing timberland, Emmerson became an irrepressible advocate of buying as much land as possible. You can never own too much land, he declared, because you never know what other restrictions will be coming down the pipe. After recording phenomenal success with the Santa Fe deal, Emmerson spent the next eight years buying land, laying out more than $600 million to acquire 400,000 acres.

Emmersons penchant for acquiring tracts of timberland continued to demonstrate itself during the late 1990s. In May 1997, Sierra Pacific paid $50 million to Louisiana-Pacific for a 38,000-acre plot of white fir and pine in northern California. Although the acreage gained in the deal was relatively small compared to the more than one million acres under Emmersons control, the deal had a symbolic importance. With the 38,000 acres gained, Emmerson became the largest private landowner in the United States, slipping past Ted Turner. It was a feat essentially achieved in one decades time, and as Emmerson scanned the horizon into future decades additional land acquisitions seemed more than likely. Nearing his seventies as the 1990s drew to a close, Emmerson had developed a voracious appetite for land late in life. The intensity of his desire for land was perhaps the single most important factor in Sierra Pacifics existence. With the next generation of Emmersons working beneath him at Sierra Pacific, Red Emmerson likely was imparting the importance of land ownership to his children: the inheritors of his business and the probable leaders of Sierra Pacifics future.

Principal Subsidiaries

Sierra Pacific Windows; Sierra Pacific Foundation.

Further Reading

DeLacy, Ron, Californias Sierra Pacific Wants Fibreboards Wood Products Division, Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 20, 1995, p. 6.

Denne, Lorianne, War on Clearcutting May Be Headed This Way, Puget Sound Business Journal, April 1, 1991, p. 11.

Glover, Mark, Sierra Pacific Industries Halts Negotiations to Buy California Sawmill, Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, January 5, 1994, p. 1.

Graebner, Lynn, Camino Mill Sale Collapses; Future Is Unclear, Business Journal Serving Greater Sacramento, January 10, 1994, p. 10.

Hawn, Carleen, What the Spotted Owl Did for Red Emmerson, Forbes, October 13, 1997, p. 82.

L-P to Sell California Coastal Timberland, Pulp & Paper, July 1997, p. 29.

Schnitt, Paul, Lumber Mill in Californias Amador County Shuts Down, Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, January 31, 1997, p. 13.

Swett, Clint, California Lumber Mills Workers Uneasy After Buyout, Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, December 27, 1996, p. 12.

_____, Sale Rescues Camino, Calif., Lumber Mills 280 Jobs, Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, May 8, 1994, p. 5.

Two Buyers Found for Bohemia Assets, Forest Industries, September 1991, p. 6.

Jeffrey L. Covell

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  • Chicago
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"Sierra Pacific Industries." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sierra Pacific Industries." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/sierra-pacific-industries-0

"Sierra Pacific Industries." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved September 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/sierra-pacific-industries-0