A Wall Street Journal blog reports that investors in Tommy Thompson's Columbus Exploration LLC company are trying to force it into bankruptcy. The company discovered and recovered some $100 million of gold and artifacts from the wreck of the S.S. Central America.
The long, strange odyssey of treasure hunter Tommy Thompson has taken yet another twist, with a group of creditors trying to force his Columbus Exploration LLC into bankruptcy in Delaware.
Some background: Thompson is engineer and undersea explorer who in the 1980s found the wreck of the SS Central America, a U.S. mail steamer that went down off the North Carolina coast in 1857 with 18 tons of gold.
By 1990, Thompson, who raised millions of dollars from wealthy Ohioans—including $1 million from the owner of the Columbus Dispatch newspaper—to finance his venture, had recovered more than three tons of gold, silver and other treasures, estimated to be worth at least $100 million. Thompson later sold some of the gold to a Californian mint for $52 million.
He’s been fighting with investors and former employees ever since. The Dispatch has a rundown of the saga here.
And now he’s disappeared. An Ohio judge has issued an order for his arrest.
Attempts to contact Thompson last week were unsuccessful.
Michael R. Szolosi is a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer for a group of seamen who worked for Thompson to recover the treasure and are suing him. In seven years, he said, the explorer has never appeared in court.
“I’ve never seen him personally,” said Szolosi. “We believe he’s in Florida and that the marshals will eventually locate him.”
To read the complete article, see:
Creditors Seek Bankruptcy for Treasure Hunter’s Company
Here's an excerpt from the Dispatch's outline of the story.
The proposal seemed preposterous: Tommy Thompson, an engineer and shipwreck-enthusiast, said he could find a steamer that had sunk in 1857 off the Carolina coast with 21 tons of gold in its hold.
Wealthy central Ohio men and women listened, and one by one anteed up money so Thompson's expedition could move forward. The chance that Thompson would find the ship was one in a million, they knew. On the other hand, he was so confident, so persuasive, so sure he could find it.
Still, perhaps no one was more surprised than those 161 investors when Thompson actually found the SS Central America in 1988 - 8,000 feet down - and eventually brought up a treasure-trove of gold coins and bars worth up to $400 million.
But as difficult as the search-and-recovery expedition was, unraveling who is entitled to the riches has been even more difficult. Twenty-three years later, investors have not seen a cent of profit, and crew members who claim they are owed part of the proceeds haven't received that, either.
A trial is scheduled in federal court late next month that could untangle some of the secrecy that has always surrounded the "gold ship."
Nine people hired by Thompson to help find the wreck say that, under their contract, they're entitled to about 2 percent of the sale proceeds of the treasure because they helped to pinpoint the wreck with sonar and other devices.
Thompson argues in court documents that they have been paid what they're due - a fee for their work. He says their work did not pinpoint the wreck site, so they're not entitled to the additional amount, estimated at $2million to $5million.
That's just one of a flurry of lawsuits that have been filed over the years since the gold's discovery.
To read the complete article, see:
Even recovered, ship's gold remains mystery
Wayne Homren, Editor
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