Dividends and Queen Bee, part 2

Have you ever been in a drugstore and seen a can with an older gentleman in a beard surrounded by a bee and the can is called Burt’s Bees. You or someone you know may use the product or products associated with Burt’s Bees. If you ever wondered what the story is with the company, the partial answer is on the website, but the full answer is in a book called Queen Bee written by Phyllis Austin published by Tilbury House Publishers, Thomaston, Maine, 2015. The book is the story of Roxanne Quimby, Burt’s Bees and Her Quest for a New National Park. The second aspect of the book is about Roxanne Quimby’s desire to have a new National Park in Maine.

Roxanne and her husband moved to Maine and were the stereotypical hippie back to the land people. That is a good thing, but life is difficult with a plot of land, little resources to buy in the market economy and few skills on farming, but people preserve, and it can be a wonderful life. Roxanne eventually worked with Burt’s Bees in beekeeping and candle making before transforming the company into a skin care company.

After Roxanne sold her company, she became wealthy, and she took her time about what to do next? As someone who lived a subsistence lifestyle for many years, wealth was good thing, and something can be done. Eventually she decided she would like to buy land to become a national park, which would help tourism. Roxanne was also influenced by Henry David Thoreau books including stories about Walden Pond which is located in Katahdin, Maine near the State Park.

In all states, the wonders of each state have provided economic activity and some large organizations tended to benefit. In the case of Maine, the state sold or leased tracts of land to private logging companies. The companies paid reasonably well to the millworkers, the belief was there an endless supply of trees for the mills to operate and the future was good. Given the relatively low population of the state, the other economic activity tends to be tourism from visiting for a week or two most often during the non-winter months. Most visitors as long as their piece of the woods is left untouched do not really think about the forestry industry and how it operates or operated.

A number of changes has happened to the forestry companies in Maine and elsewhere. The best or highest demand trees were long cut down and a new generation was growing. However, the world had changed from print to electronics and the demand for trees to become paper was diminished and continues downward. It used to be everyone read a newspaper or had one delivered to them, now people read on-line or the demand is simply not there and all the mills are not needed. Many were cutback and then shut down. If you go back in time, between 1880 and 1920, the Great Northern pulp and paper mill at Millinocket was the world’s largest pulp and paper mill and not far away was another large mill in East Millinocket. By 1970, Great Northern, International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, Oxford Paper, Fraser, SD Warren and Scott Paper owned nearly half of the state’s commercial forests. 25% of Maine’s manufacturing workers were employed in paper mills and paper companies accounted for nearly $3 of every $10 of Maine’s economy.

In 1982, there was a hostile takeover by Sir James Goldsmith of Diamond International Corp. Sir James sold off the mills but kept the land getting a return twice his investment. Once a paper company, Diamond International became a real estate holding company. The company looked at its forest to be developed for recreation, tourism and vacation homes.

Between 1994 and 2005, the share of the Maine woods owned by traditional forest companies fell from 59% to 16%. The new owners were interested in getting their money back in 10 to 15 years. They tended to cut forests faster which led to less forests which led to the state paying the companies not to cut and mills were closed and reopened in the southern US states.

Into the changing times, not understood by the regular person on the street steps in Roxanne to begin to buy land for a national park. In another time it was possible that Roxanne’s purchases and desire for a National Park would have been warmly welcomed but the setting and the new players in the state lumber industry were clearly not warmly receptive to Roxanne’s purchases. There were other individuals in the state who owned land such as John Malone who made billions in the cable TV industry and was the largest private owner of real estate in Maine, but he had other desires than Roxanne. He would lease his lands to the lumber company. Roxanne proved to be a savvy operator as she bought over 100,000 acres and would donate 87,000 to form a National Park in Maine, but the story is the journey.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, when an investor buys into the company they are buying into a proven and profitable company which over the years has been able to manage change. With multiple industries we see how new investors see the industry and sometimes it is not the same as the old players. There is a line between seeing opportunity and seeing terrifying change, receiving a dividend helps you to see the opportunity.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.


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