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Chattanooga company buys Niswonger's trucking business

Nathan Baker • Jul 5, 2018 at 10:19 AM

A transportation company in Greeneville was bought by a Chattanooga holding company Thursday in an $83 million cash deal.

Covenant Transportation group announced the acquisition of Landair Holdings, Inc., founded in 1981 by Scott Niswonger and Ed Sayler, in a press release.

The holding company, publicly traded under the stock symbol CVTI, includes Covenant Transport and Covenant Transport Solutions of Chattanooga; Southern Refrigerated Transport of Texarkana, Arkansas; and Star Transportation of Nashville.

According to the company’s announcement, Covenant expects to maintain Landair’s Greeneville headquarters, and the acquisition should not be disruptive to employees and customers. John Tweed, Landair’s current president and CEO, will continue as the subsidiary’s president.

Covenant purchased $83 million worth of Landair’s outstanding stock and refinanced $15.5 million of its debt, according to the terms of the deal.

Covenant Chairman and CEO David R. Parker said his company pursued the acquisition because of Landair’s record of growth and profitability, it’s management team and its culture, represented by Niswonger.

“Landair is a perfect fit with our strategy to grow in areas where we can get closer and more heavily integrated with customers,” Parker said in the release.

Niswonger said he was pleased to find a buyer that shared his Christian principles.

“Today is the start of the next chapter in the Landair story. We are blessed to have identified a strategic buyer that was founded on faith-based principles and is committed to continued investment in our business and people,” he said.

Started as a trucking business to ferry cargo between air freight terminals, Landair grew over 37 years to include distribution and transportation management and contract trucking. With 1,300 employees it operates 430 trucks and 900 trailers and manages 12 distribution facilities.

Niswonger is a familiar name across East Tennessee, taking on philanthropic efforts from Johnson City’s children’s hospital to Greeneville’s performing arts center. He was also involved in the fundraising campaign for East Tennessee State University’s football stadium and was a backer of the merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System. He now sits on the board of directors of the merged Ballad Health.

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