Perdue must repay $21 million business loan by March 1

ATLANTA --Gov. Sonny Perdue is facing $21 million in personal debt after he took out a massive loan last year for his two agricultural businesses, according to public records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

Records reveal the governor got the loan from AgGeorgia Farm Credit in Perry, Ga., on collateral worth less than 20 percent of the loan's value, an unusual move, the newspaper reported.

Mr. Perdue declined to comment on the loan, which is due by March 1.

"He's a small businessman," said Bert Brantley, Mr. Perdue's spokesman. "As small businesses and small business owners around the state know, sometimes you have to personally sign for loans for your business."

Because he is not running for office again, Mr. Perdue is not required to disclose the details of the loan.

The loan is worth almost three times his personal assets of $6.1 million, which he disclosed in his latest statement of his finances in 2006.

Unlike the most three recent Georgia governors, Mr. Perdue did not place his financial interest in a blind trust while in office. The governor has said his Bonaire grain businesses - Houston Fertilizer & Grain Co. and AGrowStar LLC - would have suffered if he had put them in a blind trust.

AgGeorgia accepted collateral from Mr. Perdue worth just 19 percent of the loans, according to Houston County Superior Court documents. He put up his Bonaire home, worth about $1.6 million, and his businesses and all their assets, worth about $2.3 million.

Most banks require collateral of at least 50 percent, experts say.

William Newberry Jr., chief executive of AgGeorgia, declined comment on the loan.

According to campaign documents, Mr. Perdue's 2006 gubernatorial campaign received $6,770 in donations form eight of the bank's board members, their close relatives or companies they control, the newspaper reported.

Mr. Perdue got into business in 1976, building one of the largest grain dealers in Georgia. His businesses, which operate grain elevators in six Georgia towns, buy grain from farmers and resell it to food processors.

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