A $230M windfall


For Robert L. Wright, a former optometrist turned entrepreneur, starting an African-American owned business with three people in Alexandria 22 years ago has become a sweet proposition.

Last year, his company, Dimensions International, a defense logistics company based in Alexandrias Eisenhower Valley, was sold to Honeywell Inc. for $230 million.

And late last year, Wrights son and Dimensions CEO, Russell T. Wright, moved into an $11 million riverfront estate in Mason Neck, about 20 miles south of Alexandria, according to Susan Gray Chambers, the Old Town Realtor with Coldwell Banker who sold him the 20,000-square-foot house and land surrounding it. 

Russell Wright worked from the ground up at his fathers company, said Chambers, who represented the younger Wright in his $8.3 million purchase of the home adjoining Gunston Hall and the 10-acre lot next door he picked up for another $2.75 million. Success could not have happened to a kinder, gentler, more soft-spoken person.

The transaction was the highest sale on record for Fairfax County last year, according to county tax records.  (See related story in ALEXANDRIA HOMES on A-10).

As the companys founder and chairman emeritus, the elder Wright started Dimensions as a three-person operation in 1985 and grew it to sales last year of $174 million.  The information technology and engineering firm has about 30 offices and 1,200 employees worldwide, providing logistical support for the U.S. military around the world.

Its Sentel and Flight Explorer subsidiaries are not part of the acquisition and are now stand-alone companies.

Robert Wright, a former practicing optometrist, stepped down as chairman in March 2003 to make room at the top for his son, Russell, who was named chairman and CEO after having been with the company for 14 years.

Citing the sale of their company and privacy issues, a spokesperson told The Times that both Wrights would not be made available for interviews.

The senior Wright, who lives in the citys West End, has been active in the regions civic affairs for decades. He formerly served on the board of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP), and is an active or former board member of local organizations such as the Northern Virginia Business Roundtable, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Technology Council Board, the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership and the Virginia Economic Bridge. He also serves on the board of directors of AFLAC Corporation, one of the nations largest insurers.

Wright was also formerly chair of the National Museum of African American History and formerly chaired the Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. He serves on the Board of Visitors of Bowie State University, Marymount University and Ohio State, his alma mater.

The younger Wright continues to chair Sentel, a $40-million-a-year enterprise, and will also manage Honeywells logistics organization, according to a company spokesman.

Dimensions provides logistics support for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and other defense agencies located at military facilities in the Middle East and throughout the world. According to a statement from Honeywell, the acquisition will be integrated into Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honeywell, to bolster the companys field support, equipment pre-positioning, depot maintenance and vehicle repair, overhaul and up-armoring offering.

This acquisition will enable us to reach new customers, continue the growth of our defense logistics business and support efforts to reconstitute billions of dollars worth of worn military equipment, said Ed Wheeler, president of Honeywell Defense and Space.

Wheeler said that to expedite the replacement of equipment damaged during recent wars in the Middle East.