Just nine days after the Osage Nation issued a harsh letter saying it was terminating a $405,000 contract with one of its own business subsidiaries, the board of Osage LLC voted to issue the first-ever dividend to the tribe.
The $155,602 payment was unexpected. It was added to the LLC board agenda at the onset of the meeting on July 28, along with a similarly unscheduled expenditure of $22,000 to buy nine deer for Lost Creek Ranch, although the agenda was issued just three hours before the meeting began.
Osage LLC chairman Frank Freeman praised Russell Goff, the chief executive of the two subsidiaries that made enough money to prompt the payments: Osage Nation Pinnacle Design Group and Osage Nation Environmental Solutions, the latter being the company whose contract the Nation said July 19 that it was terminating for non-performance on an environmental survey that is key to putting the 43,000-acre Osage Nation Ranch into federal trust.
“It’s pretty amazing that we have the two 8(a) companies that, as of June 30, three quarters into the [fiscal] year, and that we have a net profit right at $780,000,” Freeman said.
“Especially from where we came from with ONES and that’s Russell Goff and his management style [which] has done that and his ability to manage his cash positions and his expenses.
“Also, there was $120,000 drawn down on a $200,000 line of credit and Russell has made his second $40,000 payment on that so we’ve only got $40,000 left on that. So, you guys have done great work and it’s greatly appreciated. We’ll be close to a million dollars in revenue by the end of the year.”
In September of 2021, when Paul Yates, Osage, was managing ONES, the Osage News published an article reporting that the bottom line of the company had improved vastly. ONES started with $4,000 in the bank and grew to having $440,000 going through the bank every month.
“I think we’ve turned the corner and we are looking for exponential growth in the next six months,” Yates said at the time.
On July 29, Yates said that he believes ONES would have paid a dividend to the tribe by March of this year, but he was terminated in October soon after he hired Goff, who was elevated to CEO of ONES and the other two environmentally centered companies – Pinnacle and Osage Government Services.
“We were in a growth phase,” Yates said. “We were slowly accumulating excess revenue, capital to keep in the bank so we could pay the Nation a dividend.”
Whether it could have arrived five months earlier or not, the dividend news was welcomed by at least one Congress member who listened in on the LLC board meeting.
“That’s fabulous news,” said Congresswoman Paula Stabler. “It’s the first time we’ve heard those words.”
Freeman then interjected that the Small Business Administration, which oversees 8(a) contracts for small business development, keeps tabs on whether dividends are issued.
“The SBA actually asks those questions, and that is a big star in our cap to actually be returning money to the Nation,” Freeman said.
Replied Stabler: “Wonderful. Thank you.”
The board made no public comments about the July 19 letter from the Nation terminating the ONES contract and no questions about it were posed during the portion of the meeting that was open to the public. Freeman announced that the board would go into a brief executive session to discuss two unspecified items, but the closed session stretched to nearly two and a quarter hours, after which the board took no action.
Jodie Revard, the chair of the congressional Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee, told Freeman that she expects to call a meeting of that committee soon to review the LLC’s annual plan, which is due Aug. 15.
“I’m looking forward to seeing where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going,” she told Freeman.
In addition to approving the dividend payment to the Nation, the board approved the $22,000 purchase of nine deer at Lost Creek Ranch, the 2,000-acre ranch near Okesa that the Nation bought for $4.9 million in the fall of 2021.
Lost Creek, which was built in 2008 by former Major League baseball pitcher Brad Penny, boasts a log house that is almost 10,000 square feet and a lodge with another 2,700 square feet. It is to become a hunting lodge business and the deer that currently inhabit the area are malnourished and lack trophy antlers, said LLC board member Nancy Trumbly Benthien. This fall, the ranch, which is fenced, is hosting a “very targeted special fall hunt” and expects to recoup the investment as well as get positive feedback from the hunters and obtain marketing material, Benthien said.
Benthien added that Osage youth will have a chance to hunt in the fall, too, but “that’s not salient to the deer.”