Green Crow traces its roots in the natural resources industries to the 1920’s in the Shreveport, Louisiana region where David Crow operated an independent (or “wildcat”) oil exploration and development company by the name of “Crow Drilling Company”. Prior to World War II the company experienced several boom and bust cycles as was typical in the oil industry at that time, but managed to survive the Great Depression with a moderate level of success.
Just prior to the outbreak of war in 1941, David Crow invented and patented the world’s first truck-mounted portable oil drilling rig. This technology helped to revolutionize the expansion of the country’s oil production capacity during the war years. The technology was widely adopted, copied and adapted, but Mr. Crow chose not to defend his patent.
After the war, the Crow family’s oil interests in Louisiana grew rapidly. In addition, the family began to diversify into southern pine timberlands, a renewable natural resource that was key to the growing forest products industry in the southern states. Starting with smaller land parcels the business grew to eventually include a controlling interest in a large southern pine project in northwest Florida.
In the early 1980’s the Florida property was sold, and the Crows made the decision to redeploy the capital in timberland located in the great Northwest. The Green Crow Corporation began operations on Christmas Eve in 1983, with the purchase of its first western property located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Since this initial purchase of 16,000 acres, Green Crow has continued to increase its land base in Washington and Oregon through direct acquisitions and through joint ventures with like-minded investors and partners.
After several land purchases on the Olympic Peninsula, the company expanded operations geographically in 1986 into Grays Harbor County, the region south of the Olympic Peninsula along the coast. This property included a mature timber resource that was primarily western red cedar and well suited for the Japanese export market. This was the first of many expansions in the 1980’s and 1990’s that would eventually include lands throughout Western Oregon and Washington.
It was during the mid-1980’s that Green Crow joined into partnership with Merrill & Ring to create MRGC. This new venture was formed to be primarily a log trading and Asian export company. From the mid-1980’s to 1996 when the partnership was dissolved, it is estimated that MRGC exported over 250 million board feet of logs to Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. Through its normal business operations, MRGC was able to accumulate a substantial land base that was divided equally between the partners when the business was dissolved. Upon dissolution, Green Crow underwent a consolidation of its various diverse business interests and partnerships under the current Green Crow corporate umbrella.
A significant milestone occurred in 1987 when Green Crow secured its first significant outside timber management client. The 11,053 acre “Meyer Brothers” tree farm was acquired by the Equitable Timberfund for approximately $12.3 million. The Equitable Timberfund was a closed-end, pooled, blind fund made up of a number of pension fund investors and managed by Resource Investments, Inc. (“RII”). Although there were other insurance companies investing in timberland in the Pacific Northwest before 1985, we believe this acquisition was the first Timber Investment Management Organization (TIMO) acquisition in the region in the modern era. Green Crow played an important role in identifying the opportunity, negotiating the price and terms of sale, conducting the due diligence and then managing the asset until its final disposition in 1997.
In addition to the Equitable Timberfund, Green Crow also managed timberlands for the MONY Timberfund 11C (managed by RII) located in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Washington from 1989 through 1994. Since then Green Crow has served as timberland manager for 5 different TIMO’s and several other industrial owners.
The spotted owl controversy of the early 1990’s had a game-changing impact on the forest products industry in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. On balance, the greater than 95% reduction in timber harvest levels on federal lands in the region shifted the timber supply toward private landowners such as Green Crow and its clients. The result was a one-time boost in the market value of these private lands and annualized investment returns approaching 20% for the early TIMO investors between 1987 and 1995. The long term impacts on the industry included a retooling of the sawmill capacity to process a smaller log, a shortening of timber harvest rotations, and a greater appreciation for high-yield forest management in the region.
A second game-changing event that has been occurring more recently has been the divestiture of significant acreages of commercial timberland in the United States by vertically integrated, public forest products companies. This has been possible as a result of the increase in recognition of timberland as an investable asset class by large institutional investors. This shift in ownership away from the strategic owners to the financially oriented owners has only been occurring in scale since the year 2000, so the future impact on this long-term asset class cannot yet be determined.
At Green Crow, the company and its people have been on the front lines throughout the evolution of the timberland investment industry in the Pacific Northwest over the past two decades, and we take into account this perspective when advising our clients and investors.
Throughout its history, Green Crow continued to accumulate land as opportunities arose. These opportunities became available through many varied sources including active and direct inquires to owners, personal contacts in the field, industrial relationships, and the traditional real estate and auction markets. In an effort to continue to expand geographically, by the end of the 1990s we had expanded into Oregon, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New Zealand, where operations continue today.
In addition to purchasing land and managing land for outside clients, Green Crow has often entered into joint venture investments with wealthy family investors. Examples include 50% joint ventures in the $3-5 million range located in Washington State and in Vermont. We consider these projects an important component of our business model and we manage these properties as we would our own.
As a result of the increased interest in timberland as an investment in recent years, Green Crow Management Services (GCMS) was formally created in 2000. The list of institutional investment clients for whom GCMS manages timberland has varied over time as the clients buy and sell their properties. Although these outside assets under management will cycle up and down over time, the core land-base of Green Crow Corporation and related entities is stable and continues to grow. GCMS draws on the company’s years of experience and expertise to provide extensive land management services to timberland investors.
Throughout our history, we have been open to participating in businesses related to land ownership, such as log brokerage, real estate development, sand and gravel operations, sawmill and lumber sales, etc. These business activities provide a degree of vertical integration to our operations that we believe only makes us better timberland managers.
With a history of steady growth, an entrepreneurial spirit and a record of solid performance, the company has earned a trusted name in the forestry business. We have the capability to perform complex management and transaction services while still maintaining our commitment to personal and professional service.