Linton Tibbetts, the entrepreneur who built Florida's biggest lumber chain, sold it, and was in the process of building another LBM group, died late Thursday. He was 88.
Tibbetts was the owner of Tibbetts Lumber Co., his second foray into the LBM industry, which has locations in St. Petersburg, Land O'Lakes, Lehigh, and Palm Bay, Fla. According to a profile in ProSales' June 2011 issue, his experiences with LBM began in 1948, when he paid $1,500 for a company that would eventually grow into Cox Lumber. Tibbetts turned Cox into a 31-store behemoth worth $400 million. His company was so lucrative that he sold it to Home Depot in 2006 while the housing market was at its peak. After a few years out of the business, Tibbetts wanted back in and, in 2009, opened two locations under the Tibbetts name. He brought back many of his former top employees from Cox Lumber and had been working on the company since.
"We want to keep on opening yards," Tibbetts told ProSales then. "When we sold out, we controlled the lumber business in Florida. I'm sure going to be trying to reach the size of Cox Lumber."
Tibbetts was born in the Cayman Islands and held dual citizenship, splitting his time between Florida and his birthplace. He contributed a number of small businesses to the economy of the Cayman Islands and was honored with an Order of the British Empire title bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth.
"Everything he could teach me, I learned," said Arlen Tillis, who worked for Tibbetts at Cox Lumber and is now executive vice president and manager at Tibbett Lumber's Land O'Lakes yard, in the ProSales article. "He just sees things."
Tibbetts died about a week after the grand re-opening ceremonies for the Tibbetts Lumber operation in St. Petersburg. "The lumber company was his first love and his dream was to see it re-opened as the family business," Juan Quesada, president of Tibbetts Lumber, said today in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times. "By the end of the re-opening ceremony, he was so tired people had trouble hearing his words."