The Palmetto state’s namesake tall ship is headed for the auction block. The South Carolina Maritime Foundation plans to try to sell the Spirit of South Carolina to pay off its mounting debts, including more than $2 million in loans from a local bank, the organization said Monday.
Robert E. “Teddy” Turner IV, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, said the nonprofit has struggled to raise money in the sour economy while trying to pay off the “significant costs” of building and operating the Spirit. At the same time, the organization’s focus has shifted toward shore-based programs aimed at at-risk children, he said.
Turner’s announcement came after word surfaced that a bank and the foundation’s former landlord are suing the organization, alleging the foundation defaulted on more than $2 million in loans and owes thousands of dollars in back rent.
“Given the financial strain of the ship’s operation and our shift in mission, the board has made a decision to attempt to sell the Spirit of South Carolina and find a suitable home for the ship in the coming months,” Turner said. “We hope to avoid dissolution of the organization and to be in a position to move forward with our broader mission of curbing the dropout rate in South Carolina.”
Even that, however, seems in jeopardy. Turner said that without “significant financial help,” the foundation will not be able to continue its programs for youth beyond the current academic year. The foundation has already let go the ship’s crew and has trimmed its staff from 25 two years ago to about a half-dozen. Still, the group’s programs are “a half-million to a million short of where we need to be,” he said.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the maritime foundation and three of its board members who pledged to guarantee the loan — Turner, John “Hank” Hofford and Pierre Manigault.
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