Stewart Title Role as Co-Insurer Was Unsung Factor in Success of Record-Making 4.2 Million-Acre Timber Deal

December 8, 2006

HOUSTON--It was one of the largest U.S. land sales ever: 4.2 million acres of forest land sold in the Southeast and Michigan by International Paper to a five-party investor group.

The transaction had a long-term, first mortgage loan by MetLife(R) Timberland Finance Group, a division of MetLife, Inc.'s Agricultural Investments unit, secured by approximately 2.6 million acres of timber and timberland. Title insurance and closings were handled by First American Title Insurance Co. And the unsung yet crucial role in the massive transaction's success: Stewart Title Guaranty Co., a 40 percent co-insurer.

"Stewart is proud and happy to have played such a pivotal role in one of the largest land transactions in the U.S. as the provider of valuable title and closing services to the various purchasers," said Malcolm S. Morris, president, Stewart Title Guaranty Co. "This took a tremendous team effort by our entire National Title Services office in Atlanta, our title plant in Tampa and Midwest Title office in Naples, Fla., as well as underwriters in our Texas and South Carolina offices."

Kevin Wood, Vice President, Counsel and National Business Development for Stewart Title Guaranty described the company's role in the complicated transaction.

"Our primary function was to assume part of the risk of the transaction and to protect the interests of the purchaser group, which included Resource Management Service LLC, Forest Investment Associates, GMO Renewable Resources, Southern Pine Plantations and St. Regis Paper Co.," said Wood.

"We worked with buyers' counsel Victor P. Haley of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP and Wendell L. Bowden of Martin Snow LLP," added Wood. "The trust they placed with Stewart Title to ensure that their clients were protected was especially gratifying."

Haley said, "The expertise of Stewart Title and the Atlanta NTS office in large timber transactions was invaluable in bringing the entire project to a successful closing."

In addition, Stewart Lender Services handled the recording of the voluminous closing documents, involving more than 400 counties in 12 states.

Stewart Title Guaranty's National Title Services division has 20 offices spread across the United States, handling complex national and commercial transactions with title, survey, closing, facilitation and underwriting services.

Source: Stewart Information Services Corp.


Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

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