Walter Energy

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Walter Energy Inc. was a publicly-traded coal and natural gas company headquartered in Hoover, with most of its mining operations in the Birmingham District. Walt Scheller was CEO and Richard Donnelly was president of the Jim Walters Resources subsidiary.

The company's history dated back to the 1946 founding of Jim Walter Homes by Tampa, Florida builder Jim Walter. Walter added a mortgage company in 1958 and acquired fiberboard manufacturer Celotex in 1962. It acquired Birmingham's U.S. Pipe and Foundry Company in 1969 and began development of the coal mines on the Blue Creek Seam in Brookwood in 1972.

In 1987 investment group KKR brought the company into private ownership as Walter Industries, Inc. and began a "de-conglomeration" by spinning off the fiberboard, paper, marble quarrying and various other operations. Litigation over asbestos claims led to bankruptcy proceedings, but were eventually settled, emerging under reorganization in 1995. Once again a public corporation, Walter Industries' stock re-appeared on the New York Stock Exchange, under the prefix WLT, in 1997.

In 2005 the company acquired Mueller Water Products and made U.S. Pipe a subsidiary of that company, which was spun off a year later. The company acquired Tuscaloosa Resources in 2007. In 2008 a financial crisis in the mortgage industry led to the demise of the Jim Walter Homes subsidiary. The Walter Investment Management Corporation was spun off the next year and the remaining resource companies rebranded as Walter Energy.

Those moves left all of the company's Jim Walter Resources, Walter Coke and Walter Minerals operations in Alabama, predominantly in Tuscaloosa County. The company shares ownership of the Black Warrior Methane Corporation with El Paso Energy (formerly Birmingham's Southern Natural Gas). At that time, the company employed about 2,100 people, mostly in Alabama, and had annual revenues of about $1 billion.

The company made plans to move its corporate headquarters from Tampa to the Galleria Tower at Hoover's Riverchase Galleria in 2009. It opened a district office there initially. In February 2010 then-CEO Victor Patrick announced his retirement. In December of that year, Walter Energy acquired the Western Coal Corporation of British Columbia, Canada in a $3.3 billion deal. At the time, metallurgical coal was trading in the range of $300 per ton.

The company posted no annual profits between 2011 and 2015. At that point the company had more than 2,680 employees. In July 2015 Walter Energy was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy organization on July 15, claiming unfunded indebtedness of $3.15 billion. Depressed prices for metallurgical coal, which was trading then for around $80 per ton, were cited as the primary factor, and major concessions from workers' unions were expected to be necessary. After months of stalled negotiations, the company's collective bargaining agreement with its unions was terminated by Judge in December 2015.

Walter Energy sold off much of its "non-core assets" in February 2016. Its primary coal mines in Alabama were sold to Warrior Met Coal later that spring, with other US properties going to third parties, leaving the idled Walter Energy Canada Holdings Inc. as Walter Energy's lone remaining subsidiary.


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