An ambitious plan to establish a large Texas water-bottling business needs new financial backing after the major backer resigned as chairman amid multiple legal problems.
American PureTex Water Corp. was aiming to begin construction this month on its first vertically integrated bottling and distribution facility, near Eagle Lake, Texas, but that will not happen. George Warren Ingram III, a 59-year-old who was founding chairman of Lincoln, Ill.-based PureTex, is battling efforts to have him extradited to Texas.
Ingram, a secretive figure in the oil and gas industry who has claimed involvement with about 200 companies in more than 30 countries, has extensive legal woes.
``George Ingram is a convicted felon on probation for theft of services,'' prosecutor James Ishimoto said, citing U.S. District Court records in San Antonio. ``The state of Texas has filed a motion to revoke Mr. Ingram's probation alleging that he did not comply with his conditions of probation, and a warrant has been issued.''
A jury had convicted 59-year-old Ingram on theft of services, and his appeal to a Texas appellate court was exhausted March 14, 2005, said Ishimoto, who is with the Bexar County district attorney's office in San Antonio. The theft of service, while not enumerated, was in the range of $1,500-$20,000.
The district attorney's office asked the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force to apprehend Ingram. In turn, federal marshals representing the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force tracked Ingram to Lincoln, and, with difficulty, apprehended him Dec. 22, said Timothy Hughes, deputy U.S. marshal in San Antonio.
Ingram's Jan. 18 bond hearing in Illinois was continued to Feb. 15. ``He is fighting extradition,'' Ishimoto said.
Regarding the Eagle Lake project, Ishimoto said: ``At this time, we do not see construction unless someone else pays for it.''
Ingram left PureTex's board Jan. 17 and is ``no longer an officer of the company,'' said Dale Behm, PureTex chief executive officer and a newly elected director. The board expects to elect a new chairman within two weeks.
Behm has extensive plastics industry experience, including a stint as president of Puget Plastics Corp.
PureTex's plans are to buy complete bottling and packaging lines from Krones, including stretch blow molding equipment for making PET bottles. The firm has estimated that the Eagle Lake project will cost $250 million for land, construction and equipment. A second Texas location, not yet selected, would cost about the same. Behm said he is ``working with three of the top investment bankers in the country'' on the project.
Construction on each site would take about one year, Behm said.
He said PureTex has sales contracts in China, with demand that could ``sell out 80 percent of the first two plants'' capacities.
Behm wants to push ahead with the project, and is counting on the investment banks. He said he talks regularly with the owner of the 260-acre site near Eagle Lake in Colorado County although PureTex's purchase option has lapsed.
Although removed from operations, Ingram remains the firm's majority shareholder, and his wife, Kimberly, is also a large shareholder. The company has about 30 investors and partners, including Behm and Fred Janz, president and chief operating officer of the PureTex Water Works subsidiary.