Did OK officials pocket half of $90 million in tax credits taken to buy billboards in other states?

September 18, 2008

Nick Baker

REI New Markets Investment, used a claimed $45.4 million investment it received from Purcell Outdoor Investment, to launder through a program that allows taking 30% of the claimed investment in tax credits. Taking as much as $13.6 interest in the company. The other $45.4 million investment and shares of the company split among REI investors. Investors, whose identities are kept secret. Thus allowing state officials to participate, reaping millions in earned profits at the public's expense, without the public ever learning. Note: this is only one of several projects taking potentially up to $472 million in tax credits during 2007.

Examining public records, news articles and Lindmark Outdoor Advertising's own website, reveals no significant new jobs were created. What was learned was Lindmark Outdoor Advertising went on a billboard shopping spree acquiring new billboard companies in AL, FL, MS and TX. Lindmark added 4 new companies, gaining 600 more billboards. The one OK company had 50 of the new billboards while three companies outside OK had 550. Lindmark added 300 more new billboards through organic growth. It is reasonable to expect the new billboards were split proportionally. The Oklahoma program used to take the tax credits specifies the majority of the investments be spent on creating jobs in Oklahoma, and not for new business acquisition.

This same information reveals a $10 million loan coming from Gladstone Capital, in Virginia, as the only other source of funding.

Those in the billboard industry informed that the value of a typical modern highway billboard can range from $25,000 up to $100-150,000 for the top of the line style Lindmark has been seen erecting. In addition to the cost of the billboards there is the residual lease income, an asset to be purchased from the seller. Then lease cost for new billboards and various other administrative costs. $54.5 million would be the approximate total value of 900 billboards at $60,000 each, far below the average price.

There is no other evidence as to where the $45.4 million went, and $10 million alone could not have covered 900 billboards and associated cost.

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