The Rise & Fall of a Jax F500 Company: Charter Company

June 1, 2015 13 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Nearly 40 years ago, “The Charter Company” and “Mason” were some of the most popular, well-known names in Jacksonville. While they likely don’t ring many bells for Jacksonville’s most recent generations, the company’s nearly 30 year run impacted Jacksonville in many ways—some of which still resonate today, despite Charter Company’s lack of presence.

Raymond Knight Mason in 1983. Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times.

Raymond Knight Mason began his business in 1949, under the name “Charter Company.” Mason had just graduated from college and was working for the Mason Lumber Company at the time, a family-owned company that had been around for generations. However, Mason wanted more. Between that, and Mason befriending Edward Ball, who was an extremely prominent business man and political figure in Florida, the Charter Company would be born.  

The Charter Company began as a group of Florida mortgage, banking, and land development firms. The company would soon add approximately sixty small gas stations. By 1970, Mason had purchased a whole petroleum operation.

Expansion wouldn’t stop there for this rapidly growing company, though. Throughout the 70s, a portion of the Florida National Bank, and a portion of the St. Joe Paper Company, would also be purchased. Additionally, Redbook, Downe Communications, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Carey Energy Corporation would fall under ownership of Mason and The Charter Company, too. The company totaled over 180 subsidiaries, ultimately becoming a Jacksonville Fortune 500 company.

By 1981, the company had sales totaling over $5 billion. Their earnings per share was $.06 a share, which was the lowest point in that decade. The Charter Company was ranked the 61st largest public company in the nation.

Trouble would persist throughout the 1980s. For example, in 1982 the company faced tragedy, as four senior executives were killed in a helicopter accident. In 1984, the company would report a net loss of nearly $71 million, most of which was attributed to discontinued operations within the company. Then, in a separate incident, the company was slammed with a $1.8 billion lawsuit. This resulted in the company having to file for bankruptcy in 1984. The entertainment company Viacom would purchase the company’s last assets in 1999.

Russell Newton of Charter Oil in November 1975. Courtesy of Fortune Magazine.

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