Former Quail Unlimited Executive Director Bill Bowles talks to reporters during a news conference.
ALBANY, Ga. — Former Quail Unlimited CEO Bill Bowles said Monday that Quail Forever, a larger national organization, has offered to take over the quail conservation work done previously by Quail Unlimited.
MOBILE USERS: To see video from Bowles' news conference, click here.
In a news conference Monday morning, Bowles said he and his four-member staff, based in Albany, have been offered employment by QF, one of the largest quail groups left in the wake of the decision to fold Quail Unlimited. Bowles will be the Southeastern regional director, responsible for operations in Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Florida. The organization will be headquartered in Albany.
Bowles said it remains unclear what role Quail Albany, an organization that was publicly unveiled at this year's Celebrity Conservation Quail hunt, will have in the transition. He said Quail Albany was organized to make certain the celebrity hunt was staged in Albany each year.
Just completed, the next hunt will be held next November — timed to coincide with the start of quail season.
Monday's announcement was another twist in an already complex story that developed late Friday afternoon when Bowles sent out an email to Quail Unlimited's membership saying that the organization was closing immediately, giving way to Quail Albany, an organization that The Herald discovered had been formed in November 2012.
Bowles said Monday that the decision to shutter Quail Unlimited was one that was based on finances and debts he says were inherited from the old guard of the organization, which were aggravated by previously unknown debtors who surfaced once the organization began to right its ship.
"We didn't have records. ... We just rolled our sleeves up and went to work," Bowles said. "The debt as we knew it was $1.2 million, and we worked tirelessly over the last two years to get that down to a level around $300,000 ... and when we thought we were at one debt level, the bar kept rising."
Still, he says, that wasn't enough to keep the organization afloat. With mounting legal and financial challenges, Bowles said the decision was made to shut down Quail Unlimited forever and start up Quail Albany in order to save the annual Southwest Georgia quail hunts.
"We've worked hard these last two years, but it's like I've often said: We've been paddling a boat with a toothpick. This will not only give us some real oars to work with, but it'll give us an outboard motor," Bowles said.
At least one of QU's creditors says it will have to weigh Bowles' statement before deciding on whether to continue litigation meant to get money it contends the organization owes it.
James Hays of the Atlanta-based Hays & Potter law firm is representing office equipment giant Pitney Bowes in a lawsuit against QU for what the company claims is $27,000 in unpaid obligations stemming from QU's days in South Carolina.
He says that while Georgia law allows for creditors to pursue debts owed by companies they believe are still conducting the same business from the same location with the same principal individuals involved just under a new name, determining what assets QU may have had may weigh heavily on his advice to his client.
"Generally, a corporation can close its doors and walk away," Hays said, "essentially say 'we have nothing of value, sorry about the bills we racked up but we're out of here.' That's the ugly side of an economy that is based so much on credit. It's always a gamble."
While Bowles wouldn't specifically say who would be in charge of the celebrity hunts going forward — Quail Forever or Quail Albany — he did say that QF's considerable resources and national reach would give him the opportunity to focus on building partnerships with land owners and state governments to ensure Quail Unlimited's initial core mission — quail conservation and stewardship — is realized.
Bowles did say that sponsors were told of the shift from Quail Unlimited to Quail Albany before the celebrity hunt started last week and that all vendors have been paid.