Lumber Sale Fresh Kindling for Former Wife's Fraud Lawsuit

Whispers usually doesn’t stick its nose in a messy divorce, but this one we couldn’t ignore since it involved the $79 million sale in 2014 of Freeman Brothers Inc. of Russellville, which operated as Bibler Brothers Lumber Co.

Melinda Gail Freeman and Terry Ray Freeman, who owned the sawmill and lumber manufacturing company, were divorced in Pope County way back in 2007. The divorce is an issue in a lawsuit Melinda Freeman filed last month in which she accuses her ex-husband of fraud for allegedly misleading her about the value of the company.

Melinda Freeman said in the suit, filed in Pope County Circuit Court, that her ex-husband told her in May 2007 that the company was “only” worth $3 million. She said they entered into a property settlement agreement based on Terry Freeman’s “fraudulent representations” about the value of the company.

Seven years later, Terry Freeman sold Freeman Brothers to West Fraser Timber Co. of Vancouver, Canada, for $79 million, according to the lawsuit. (The amount wasn’t announced at the time of the sale.)

She said the alleged fraudulent misrepresentation resulted in her being damaged by more than $15 million.

Melinda Freeman’s attorney, Brandon Haubert of Clarksville, didn’t return a call for comment. But Terry Freeman’s attorney, Mark Mobley of Russellville, said he will ask that the case be thrown out.

“Mrs. Freeman was given her half of the marital assets at the time of the divorce, which represented … one half of what the business was estimated to be worth at that time,” Mobley said. “Subsequent to the divorce, Mr. Freeman continued to work the business for almost 10 years and continued to invest in that business to further develop its value. Then the business was sold based on the value of the business at the time.”

Mobley said Terry Freeman didn’t commit fraud.

“Mr. Freeman has all the documents to prove what it was worth then and has all the documents to prove that he developed it and increased its value over time and sweat equity,” Mobley said. “And she’s not entitled to the benefit of his continued work and investment.”