Summer 2006 • Issue 22, page 14

Profile: Jim Lowe

By Lowe, Jim*

(Editor’s note: Jim Lowe, current Chair of the California Receivers Forum and the subject of this issue’s professional profile, has built a receivership/consulting business in Clovis, California, smack in the middle of the State. Where is Clovis? Wikipedia has this to say: “Clovis is situated midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, bordering Fresno, in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley. Lying at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, which includes Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks, Clovis has been known as “Gateway to the Sierras” since its incorporation in 1912.” Sounds good to me.)

Becoming a consultant and a receiver wasn’t my chosen career — it chose me and I’m glad of it.

When in college I wanted to be a businessman or some sort of entrepreneur. I always found myself in pursuit of new business projects. At Fresno State University I enrolled in the Business Department, with an emphasis in marketing.

Upon graduating with a business degree in hand I started working for a loan brokerage company. At the ripe old age of twenty-two I was in charge of placing distressed loans. I found my job prosperous, yet unfulfilling. I always felt if the distressed company and/or individuals were not able to make the business prosper given the current loan situation, was I really helping the company by reworking the loans and taking out the remaining equity? The take-out loans almost always had higher interest rates attached and I knew the companies were unlikely to survive without restructuring their business.

In hindsight, I now realize that the upside to this job was that I received a good education in reviewing financial information, assessing business needs and dealing with various levels of distressed loans.

My family’s farm on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley had fallen on hard times in 1995. It was quite large by most family farm standards — comprised of four partnerships, two trusts and two corporations with a total of more than six thousand acres. The farm’s CPA and a few other employees had jumped ship due to the company’s troubled financial condition. My father asked me if I would come out and help with the controller duties, and I agreed.

I worked for three years as controller, working on budgets, financing, legal issues, and on managing the office staff. Those years were a constant financial struggle as we had only part of the financing that we needed, and too large a debt load to service. We finally decided to sell the farm in 1997 to a Salinas area grower.

To make a long story short, the sale was not easily accomplished and the bank assigned Clifford Bressler and Associates as a receiver to help transition the farm’s assets and growing crops to the new owners. When the bank told my family they would like a receiver to assist with the transition, my first question was, “What’s a receiver?” I found out shortly thereafter when Mr. Bressler was introduced to us.

I don’t know if there is ever a “good time” for a receiver to take over your business, but the week that Mr. Bressler was assigned to our farm was one of the most tumultuous times in my life. This was not only because the farm I had grown up on was no longer going to be a part of my life. There were plenty of other stressful factors at work.

Example: my wedding with 300 guests invited was to take place the following Saturday and my wife-to-be and I were leaving the day after the wedding for a honeymoon in Australia.

Example: I had also been enrolled in graduate school pursuing an MBA for the previous year. I worked during the day, attended classes at night and studied on weekends. That fateful week I was trying to get ahead with my studying so I did not have to worry about academic things on our honeymoon.

Example: there was also the constant stress just knowing that my whole family, including me, needed to find new jobs in the near future.
And, finally, we were still negotiating the sale with the bank and the buyers, and were meeting with our legal team daily. If ever there were a probable time for a stress-related heart attack, that week (and month) was it.

Upon meeting Mr. Bressler (just a week before the wedding) I gave him a variety of business information such as budgets, equipment lists and crop maps. He and my father worked together during my honeymoon, and at some point he asked my Dad who had kept the financial information in order. Shortly after my return from Australia and to my great surprise, Mr. Bressler asked me to work with him in the receivership business.

He agreed to work around my school schedule and I was intrigued by a job where one was assigned by the courts to take over various businesses. Mr. Bressler was semi-retired at the time, and no longer wanted the chore of daily management of receiverships. I, on the other hand, wanted to learn everything there was to learn about the business of receiverships. We agreed that he would help me learn the receiver and consulting business and that I would work for him for a minimum of three years.

Mr. Bressler then introduced me to the people in the “receivership circle” in our area. Riley Walter of the Walter Law Group was one of these people. Mr. Walter helped me a great deal in learning the receivership business. He introduced me to the California Receivership Forum, and e-mailed receivership news items and additional information to me he thought would be helpful. Mr. Walter and I attended the Spring 2001 Receivership Forum executive committee meeting in Monterey, California and we asked if we could work towards starting a Central California Chapter. The Forum agreed, and the chapter has now been around for more than six years and is going strong.

Mr. Bressler and I continue to work together on various business assignments and receiverships. I also have my own business — my team helps to manage the budgets, insurance issues, bank loans, contracts, investments and key personnel for various companies. Many of our long-term clients are turned-around businesses where we were assigned as receiver or as a turnaround consultant, and the owners kept us on in a management capacity once the companies became profitable.

Most clients are in some sort of agriculture business, though we do have clients that are not agriculture-related. The agricultural businesses we manage include growers with various row crops, including cotton, melons, tomatoes, garlic and onions, as well as pistachio, almond and grape growers, a fruit dehydrator, a pistachio processing plant, and a vegetable and fruit packing facility. We are also often hired to manage and consult for dairies and livestock businesses.

Turnaround consulting is a big part of our business. My team was just hired by a large air conditioning contractor to renegotiate its contracts and streamline the business for profitability. My team and I are also starting an agricultural management division that will manage farm properties for non-farmer land holders who have purchased properties as investments.

The preceding paragraphs explain exactly why I love the business I’m in – it is so diversified. Though it is often very stressful to juggle a wide array of businesses, there is no time for boredom. I have been fortunate to have worked with grocery stores, restaurants, truck stops, pharmacies, car dealerships, food services, rents and profits, and just about every type of agriculture-related business as a receivership manager with Mr. Bressler. I have also served as an agricultural expert witness.

It is also fun to work with so many different types of businesses. We were asked to take over a few of our area’s Good Neighbor Pharmacies recently. In reality we knew nothing about the pharmacy business except how to purchase medication with a prescription. We quickly learned as much about the pharmacy laws as time allowed, and hired pharmacists as part of our receivership team. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this profession is meeting so many wonderful people along the way, from all walks of life.

My wife, Dawnda, and I have been married for eight years and have three sons. James is six years old and loves wakeboarding, soccer, baseball and ninja turtles. Andrew and Brayden (Baby A and B) are nine-month-old twins and have really caused business to pick up on the home front this year. Sleep deprivation aside, they have been a true blessing to us, as we did not think we would be able to have any more children! Dawnda was on bed rest for about five months of her pregnancy. She is currently a full-time mom though she formerly was the assistant editor of seven agricultural magazines and, more recently, taught the third grade.

I am an avid outdoorsman, and especially enjoy fishing and archery. I have been competing in team and individual trap-shooting events the last three years. My family spends many evenings and weekends skiing and wakeboarding during the summer. And there is another adventure just around the corner — we recently purchased thirty-five acres along the Kings River above the north and south fork weir, and plan to build our new home on the property.