The former Champion Insurance complex on Government Street, a prime property in a busy area of Baton Rouge, has been sold for $3.3 million to a group of partners from Cajun Ready Mix.
CHL Endeavors LLC of Baton Rouge bought the property at 4615 Government in a deal that was filed Wednesday with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court’s Office. The seller was the State of Louisiana.
CHL is made up of Steven Cheatham, Ryan Heck and Jason Lyngaas, all of whom are listed as partners in Cajun Ready Mix. Holcim US, a global cement, concrete and asphalt manufacturer, bought the Baton Rouge business last week and announced plans to rebrand it.
The buyers plan to redevelop and improve the Government Street site, said Mathew Laborde of Elifin Realty, who represented the buyers. There were no further details to announce, he said.
The complex consists of two buildings facing Government Street, with 8 acres behind them. One building is 40,272 square feet; the other is 17,881 square feet. There are 242 parking spaces on the property.
Champion was once the state’s third-largest auto insurance company, until it collapsed in June 1989. Company owner John M. Eicher Jr. and some family members were accused of putting up a deceitful image of financial solvency to policyholders, while the company was crumbling under the weight of claims it couldn’t pay. Eicher did time in federal prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud, forgery and bribery.
Former Insurance Commissioner Doug Green served 12 years in federal prison after Eicher-backed companies bankrolled his 1987 campaign. In exchange for the support, prosecutors said Green looked the other way while Champion’s claims went unpaid.
The state bought the property in December 1990 for $372,687. It had been occupied by Capital Area Human Services, which provides mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities services.
CAHS moved into new offices and the property had been on the market since September 2020. The state tried to sell it through sealed bids, with a minimum asking price of $4.255 million. The asking price was based off of an appraisal.
But no one put a bid on the property. There was talk the timing of the auction — at the height of the COVID pandemic and when many businesses were just coming out of mandatory shutdowns — was bad for drawing out potential buyers. The state then approached Jonathan Walker and Denis Murrell of Maestri-Murrell Real Estate about listing the property.
“The state thought the best process was to go on the market and let the entire community take a look at it,” Walker said.
There was a lot of interest on the property because it’s a square-shaped tract on Government Street.
“Government Street is still on the rise from a development standpoint,” Walker said.
The land will probably end up with multiple uses, such as putting a restaurant or offices in the front and developing apartments or self-storage in the back. “I’m sure it will contain a few different uses,” Walker said.