Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service is being sold, but its 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 10 years.
“Most of it, I’m giving to them,” said Pounds in a Wednesday interview. “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 that “the firm might soon be sold.”
Rumors then began to fly about who’d buy the company, which provides ambulance 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 emailed Wednesday morning, later adding that he’s rejected several such overtures in recent years.
Instead, he plans to gradually vest employees with stock in the company until it belongs entirely 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. The company has the first option to purchase the stock of any employee who leaves the company, he added.
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, Pounds said.
An Augusta native, Pounds’ home is 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 blindsided,” Lindley said.
The company, which has 42 ground ambulances and two helicopter ambulances, currently is in negotiations with Richmond County about continuing the ambulance service contract. The contract was the subject of the discussions at a Monday Public Safety Committee meeting at which the sale information was mentioned.
The full 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 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 full commission for consideration.