Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service is being sold, but the new owners are already in the building.
Bo Pounds is selling his privately owned ambulance service to the company’s 270 employees, a process that will take place gradually over the next 10 years.
“Most of it, I’m giving to them,” Pounds said Wednesday. “I just really wanted to take care of the employees.”
News of the sale went public earlier in the week when Gold Cross’ chief financial officer, Frank Lindley, was quoted in a story in The Augusta Chronicle saying that “the firm might soon be sold.”
Rumors began to fly about who would buy the company, which provides service under contract to Columbia, Richmond and Jefferson counties.
“I have no intention of ever selling my business to an outside party,” Pounds said in a news release e-mailed Wednesday morning, later adding that he has rejected several such overtures in recent years.
Instead, he plans to vest employees with stock in the company gradually until it belongs to them in 10 years. The service is worth about $8 million, Pounds said.
He already has transferred 25 percent ownership of the company to top officers, including Lindley and Chief Executive Officer Vince Brogdon, Pounds said. Other employees will receive annual dividends based on their years of service.
“Key employees will own the stock, but they have to share the dividends with the employees,” Pounds said.
As the employees gradually purchase the company, the money will go to Pounds’ four daughters. All of them are Marietta, Ga., residents and none had an interest in operating the company, he said.
Pounds, an Augusta native, has a home in Marietta, but since the death of his wife about five years ago, he spends most of his time on his farm in Greensboro, Ga.
The transfer has been in the works for about four years, said Pounds, who is 75.
“Bo has his CPAs and tax attorneys work it out so nobody’s being blind-sided,” Lindley said.
The company, which has 42 ground ambulances and two helicopter ambulances, is in negotiations with Richmond County about continuing the ambulance service contract. The contract was the subject of the discussions at a Public Safety Committee meeting Monday at which the sale information was mentioned.
The Augusta Commission is scheduled Tuesday to vote on giving Gold Cross notice that it plans to send the ambulance service contract out for bids.
Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department Chief Chris James had complained about the terms of the contract, under which the fire department and Gold Cross are “co-primary providers” for emergency ambulance service in Richmond County.
James failed to get enough commissioners in a committee meeting Monday to approve the notice, which means the issue will go to the commission for consideration.