Travel firm takes over agency built by McLeans Lien seeks $136,000 in unpaid taxes

September 21, 1993|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Staff Writer

Travel One, a major East Coast travel firm, has taken over Four Seas & Seven Winds Inc., the travel business built by Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean and her husband.

The Sept. 1 deal occurred about a week after Four Seas was issued a federal lien seeking $136,000 in unpaid taxes.

Asked about the lien, Mrs. McLean said she relinquished her management role in the company several years ago and referred questions to her husband, James, the company president.

"You might as well ask me about General Motors," she said during an interview Friday. "I have not been involved with the company since 1989. I have nothing to do with it."

Yesterday, Mr. McLean said that his wife owns 2 percent of the business and that she has not had a management role in the company for five years.

State records show that Mrs. McLean signed a notarized document attesting to her partial ownership of the company in March 1992. Asked about the document, she said she was unaware of its existence and it must be in error.

The lien covers taxes due for the second half of 1992. Mr. McLean said Four Seasons is fighting the Internal Revenue Service claim.

"We dispute what the government has," he said. "All of that amount is being disputed."

A spokesman for the New Jersey-based Travel One company said it bought Four Seas' client list and rights to hire its employees for an undisclosed sum, and is retaining seven of its eight offices.

But Travel One is not responsible for unpaid taxes because it didn't buy the company outright, said Charles Roumas, vice president of marketing for Travel One. The lien filed against Four Seas on Aug. 23 seeks $136,209 in employee withholding taxes for 1992.

Four Seas, once one of Baltimore's largest black-owned companies, became a selling point Mrs. McLean used to display her business prowess as she campaigned for the comptroller job in 1991. The comptroller is the city's fiscal watchdog, sitting on the Board of Estimates and monitoring the city's finances.

Four Seas at one time had 32 offices in four states and sold $36 million in airline tickets a year.

But in the months before Mrs. McLean's election, the company faced financial troubles, closed many of its offices and cut its work force. By Sept. 1, the company had shrunk to eight offices, 20 employees, and about $12 million in annual air ticket sales, Mr. Roumas said.

Travel One has closed Four Seas' headquarters at 12 W. Montgomery St. in South Baltimore.

Mr. Roumas said merging the two companies gives Travel One the opportunity to further expand. The company, based in Mount Laurel, N.J., has 60 offices in a dozen states, and expects to take in $260 million in sales this year, he said.

Mr. McLean said he has taken a position with Travel One as vice president. Asked about his responsibilities, he described them as "broad" and declined to elaborate.

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