By Steven Allen Adams
March 17, 2023 - WV Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday a report by a national news outlet that his coal companies were exploring being sold to clear debt liabilities was unconnected to whether he chooses to announce a run for U.S. Senate by the end of the month.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Justice family has retained the services of a company to provide advice for “strategic options” for Bluestone Resources Inc., the Justice-owned company that oversees all of their coal mining processing operations.
According to Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Steinberg, Justice family attorney Steven Ruby confirmed that Perella Weinberg Partners was advising Bluestone, managed by Justice’s son Jay, on the best way to sell the company and retire its debt load.
Addressing the article during his virtual administration briefing Wednesday, Justice said now might be the best opportunity for Jay and his daughter Jill to sell Bluestone with coal production and prices up.
“Bluestone has a great big footprint. It goes into Kentucky, Virginia and maybe Tennessee. What I think they are doing is they are carving out some specific assets and everything, getting those specific assets running in a real prudent way to be able to market those at a time when the market is really good. If they can pull that off and everything, it lowers their debt if not eliminates their debt load. That just makes things better in their lives,” he said.
Justice said the discussions about selling Bluestone’s assets have been ongoing over the last year and have nothing to do with him possibly announcing a run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2024. Justice has been teasing a run for weeks, which could put him up against U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., if Manchin seeks re-election.
“The thing that blows me away about stuff like that is they tie it to a Senate run. Give me a blooming break,” Justice said. “What (my children) have done is just taking a play out of my playbook.”
Justice sold Bluestone once before, turning the company over to Russian mining company Mechel in 2009 for $578 million and bought it back in 2015 for $5 million. But Justice and his family have spent years dealing with debt issues after buying the company back.
Bluestone made an offer with Swiss-based Credit Suisse Group to settle past loans to the now-defunct Greensill Capital. Bluestone offered Credit Suisse $300 million by refinancing the existing loans through a third-party lender. The company also offered Credit Suisse half of any proceeds from the future sale or initial public offering of Bluestone.
Greensill filed for bankruptcy in 2021 after losing coverage by credit insurers meant to provide the company liability protection from risky supply-chain finance funds, a kind of payday loan meant for companies. Greensill would loan companies money, which the companies would pay back to Greensill once invoices were paid to the companies for services rendered. Greensill would take a fee.
Shortly after Greensill filed bankruptcy, Credit Suisse froze all the funds and was working with Bluestone and other borrowers to return the borrowed money. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bluestone was one of three of Greensill’s largest borrowers, providing loans to Justice’s company in 2018.
Justice turned over management of his coal and agricultural businesses to Jay Justice after becoming governor in 2017, while daughter Jill Justice runs the Greenbrier Resort and related businesses. Bluestone is one of 111 Justice-owned companies listed on the governor’s 2022 financial disclosure report filed with the West Virginia Ethics Commission, though it’s not one of the seven companies Justice placed in a blind trust.