Ex-King Pharmaceutical executive buys Cove Ridge Marina

By Thomas Wilson
BUTLER - A former executive of a Bristol-based pharmaceutical company bought a popular Carter County marina at a public auction held here Saturday, but the future plans of the development remain adrift.
Joe Gregory of Piney Flats successfully bid $1,970,500 to buy the Cove Ridge Marina and campground as well as a 33.3-acre tract of property adjacent to the marina at a public auction held Saturday morning at the marina.
"I've been looking for property here for the last two years and this place appealed to me," Gregory said after the auction.
Conducted by Goodwin-Street Auction Company, the auction sold real and personal property under judicial order through the Chancery Court of Carter County. The auction resulted from the court ordered division of property from the divorce proceeding of Beatrice Harmon Montgomery and Terry Lane Montgomery. The event drew a handful of legitimate bidders and dozens of spectators anxious to see who might become the new owner.
A successful bidder was required to pay 10 percent of the bid price on the day of sale and the balance within 30 days. The gated marina and campground tract and 33.3-acre property were auctioned separately. A separate bidder initially bought the 33 acres for $210,000. The bidders could couple the bids for the marina and adjacent property into one offering, which Gregory did to secure both properties.
Nestled in a picturesque cove of Watauga Lake off Piercetown Road, the marina property included 104 boat slips, a restaurant, office equipment, docking materials and the dock barge. The campground features 24 campsites and a picnic shelter.
Several boat owners who had their crafts docked at Cove Ridge wondered if they would be allowed to keep their boats docked at the marina once Gregory took ownership. Gregory declined comment on any future plans for the marina until he took ownership.
"The property isn't mine yet," he said.
Gregory is a stockholder in King Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and previously served as vice-chairman of its board of directors. He retired from the company two years ago. His brother, Jefferson Gregory Jr., stepped down as CEO and as chairman of the company's board of directors May 17.
Headquartered in Bristol, Tenn., King manufactures, markets, and sells primarily branded prescription pharmaceutical products including the hypertension drug Altace and hypothyroid product Levoxyl. It was reported last month that total revenues decreased 14 percent to $290.6 million during the first quarter ending March 31, 2004.
The company has been under investigation by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission since March 2003 for its billing practices for several drugs relating to the Medicaid program and for the sales of products to two companies. The company's stock price and revenues have taken significant hits since the investigation began.
Auction officials advised bidders that the marina's existing facilities were moored outside established harbor limits according to a Tennessee Valley Authority survey. In a letter to Goodwin Street dated May 27, 2004, TVA reported the facilities could be relocated or the owner could submit a $1,500 license application to TVA for use of the limit.
Judge Thomas Seeley ordered Terry and Beatrice Montgomery's acquired assets be sold and liquidated in a ruling issued May 30, 2003. Seeley's ruling ordered the marina and adjoining property sold with proceeds divided between the couple and Brian Montgomery. The ruling also directed Eastland Apartments and the Mini-Mall building in downtown Elizabethton to be sold and equally divided between Terry and Beatrice Montgomery.
While it was a good morning for Gregory, the day proved bitter for its likely soon-to-be former owner who attended the auction.
"It's a heartbreaking experience," said Terry Montgomery, who was comforted by several friends while speaking with this reporter.