Linton Tibbetts, the entrepreneur who built Cox Lumber into Florida's biggest lumber chain, sold it, and was in the process of building another LBM group, died on Oct. 6. He was 88.
In 1948, the Cayman Islands native paid $1,500 for a company that would eventually grow into Cox Lumber. Tibbetts turned it into a 31-store behemoth worth $400 million. He sold Cox to Home Depot in 2006 while the housing market was at its peak.
Three years later, Tibbetts opened two locations under the Tibbetts Lumber name and brought back many of his former top employees from Cox. He died one week after the grand re-opening ceremonies of his lumber company's original store in St. Petersburg. Tibbetts Lumber has four branches today.
"Working for him was an incredible pleasure and an ongoing, everyday learning experience," says Arlen Tillis, executive vice president and manager at Tibbetts Lumber. Tillis worked for Linton Tibbetts for almost 40 years. "Every day he would come up with a new way to make money," Tillis says. "He still saw things that I didn't see, and to this day that still amazes me."
Bill Tucker, president of the Florida Building Material Association, says the first time he met Tibbett was when he visited Cox Lumber's then-new location in Ocala, Fla. There, Tucker was greeted by an elderly gentleman who gave him a tour of the yard. After the tour, Tucker went and spoke with Tillis and asked him if he could meet Tibbetts. Tillis replied: "You just spent the last half hour touring the yard with him."
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.