By Staff and Wire Reporters
The Press Democrat
December 23, 2007

The family that founded the Gap and runs a company that manages 235,000 acres of Mendocino County timberland has offered to invest $200 million in reviving the bankrupt Pacific Lumber Co. and to take control of its Humboldt County redwood forests.

The offer is contingent on a federal judge in Texas ousting authority over the lands near Eureka from the current owner, Houston financier Charles Hurwitz and his Maxxam Corp.

The proposal from the Fisher family came Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Pacific Lumber sought Chapter 11 protection in January after missing a bond payment. The offer was one of several plans to reorganize Pacific Lumber.

The billionaire family, led by Donald and Doris Fisher, entered into the timber business in 1998 with the acquisition of Louisiana-Pacific Corp. holdings in Mendocino and northern Sonoma County. It created Mendocino Redwood Co. to manage the timber operations.

Now, the company is proposing a major expansion into Humboldt County by proposing a takeover of Pacific Lumber and its more than 200,000 acres of redwood forests.

To make its heavy debt payments over the years, Maxxam greatly increased Pacific Lumber's harvest of redwoods, sparking protests in the 1990s.

"We've been watching the Pacific Lumber bankruptcy since it started in January," looking for a chance to get involved, Sandy Dean, an officer with Sansome Partners, which is controlled by the Fisher family, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Dean is chairman of Mendocino Redwood Co., which is controlled by Sansome.

Representatives of Mendocino Redwood were not available for comment Saturday.

Environmentalists were critical of Mendocino Redwood after it acquired the Mendocino County lands and staged protests outside Gap stores. But the company has gained environmental recognition and was the first major timber company in California to win independent certification of its operations as environmentally sound.