At the age of 29, Richard W. Courts, Jr. recognized that industry throughout the southeast needed investment capital for growth and founded Courts & Co. to offer financial services to individuals, institutional investors, and investment banking clients. His vision spurred industrial growth, propelled economic and social change, and created value for the firm's investment banking and brokerage clients. A man of natural humility and humanity, Dick Courts placed clients' trust as the first priority of his career.
His abilities were evident at the University of Georgia, where he was selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Sphinx. During World War I, he served in France as a 2nd lieutenant with the U.S. 343rd Infantry Regiment.
Known for unfailing integrity, Dick was active in business for 73 years. He secured financial capital for companies that became pillars of the Southeast's economy. He also founded the firm which became Atlantic Investment Company, owning a portfolio of regional real estate, including prime development sites, residential and commercial properties. A core asset for seventy two years was the Hurt Building, a landmark in downtown Atlanta.
Founded in 1925, Courts & Co. provided diversified financial services to the investment banking clients, individual investors throughout the southeast and maintained a private wire link to New York City. Early success led to a branch office in Macon in 1927. Two years later, Dick Courts became a member of the New York Stock Exchange, where his first purchase was 100 shares of The Coca-Cola Company. Later, his memberships included the American Stock Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade and New York Cotton Exchange.
By its 25th anniversary in 1950, Courts & Co. had branch offices in 19 cities throughout the Southeast and also in New York City. During the Great Depression and World War II, the firm prospered by remaining true to its purposes: provide the best investment service at the lowest possible cost, connect clients with attractive investment opportunities, and facilitate the flow of surplus capital into promising companies.
The firm's foremost asset was the financial acumen and reputation for honest dealings of its young founder, Dick Courts. In its first month, Courts & Co. arranged the purchase of Georgia Railway & Power Company common stock for a local syndicate. One year later, Courts & Co. became the sole underwriter in a public offering for the preferred stock of Georgia Railway & Power, which subsequently changed its name to Georgia Power Company.
The firm managed, co-managed or participated in more than 5,000 corporate financings. Courts & Co. provided financing for Augusta-based Marks Oxygen, which became American Cryogenics and merged with Exxon Mobil. Cousins Properties was the final public offering managed by Courts & Co. before agreeing to be acquired by Reynolds Securities, Inc. in 1969.
At the time Courts & Co. was purchased in 1969 by Reynolds Securities, Inc., it was ranked by capital in the top 10 percent of America's investment banking firms. Reynolds later became part of Morgan Stanley.
A penetrating eye for value and faith in Atlanta's future led Dick Courts to invest in real estate. In 1936, he acquired 50 Atlanta apartment buildings, the largest transaction dealing with Atlanta residential properties up to that time. To own and manage them, he established the forerunner of Atlantic Investment Company.
In the 1950s, Atlantic Investment refocused on commercial real estate through the purchase of Southern States Realty, which owned the downtown Hurt Building. Over time, the real estate portfolio expanded with additional commercial properties, undeveloped land, and significant assemblages in two of Atlanta's most vibrant commercial areas, the Midtown assemblage, comprising approximately 6.2 acres, and the Buckhead assemblage, comprising approximately 15.9 acres. A portfolio of common stocks were also important investments. Following the sale of Courts & Co., Dick Courts and his nephew, Richard W. Courts II concentrated on creating value for Atlantic Investment shareholders through a diversified portfolio of investments and conservative fiscal management.
To reflect its breadth of economic interests, the firm's name became Atlantic Investment Company in 1995. Dick Courts died in 1992, passing the torch to nephew Richard Courts, II. In the mid 1980s, the Hurt Building underwent an award-winning renovation, restoring the elegance of its 1913 opening. This revitalization defied projections of a weak downtown office market, reclaiming its history as a prized address. The Hurt Building remained a core asset until its sale in 2006.
Atlantic Investment Company has expanded its focus by concentrating on global equity investments and private equity opportunities, as well as on local commercial properties.
Throughout his life, Dick Courts was quietly dedicated to community-building and philanthropic causes. As a spokesman for sound economic practices during the Depression, he chaired anti-hoarding campaigns. After World War II, he championed the creation of an international monetary fund and international bank to promote development. Close to home, his generosity benefited the Salvation Army, University of Georgia and other civic and charitable organizations.
In the 21st Century, the Courts family sustains this tradition through the Courts Foundation, established by Dick and his wife, Virginia Campbell Courts.
"As a company and a family, we are eager to give back to the community where the aspirations of Dick Courts were rewarded. He bequeathed this commitment to us, and now it is our privilege to carry it forward into the 21st Century."
Richard W. Courts, II