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Historical press about the founder Charlie Wilson

Salvex ABC News Press Release, News coverage of a blowout wedding dress sale held by Salvex, Inc, an asset recovery company in Houston, TX. Salvex runs online auctions for large scale commodities that have been distressed or abandoned.

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U.S. Small Business Administration, "An Innovative Business Model That Works in Today’s Economy"

Charlie Wilson is the founder and CEO of Salvex, Inc., an online commercial salvage company. Salvex, Wilson’s third company is built from the experiences gained from the combination of his former companies, SeaRail International and SalvageSales and the knowledge passed down from his father. With agents in twenty-five countries, Salvex has become one of the world’s leading salvage companies.

Wilson was exposed to the business world at a very young age and accomplished what many young business owners dream of. As a kid, he accompanied his father during the summer to different worksites across the world. In 1990, shortly after college, he started his first company SeaRail International, Inc. selling abandoned cargo from the Port of Houston. In 1994 SeaRail was the 13th growth, Wilson applied and was approved for an SBA 7(a) program loan which allowed him to add ten employees, increase R&D, and purchase office equipment. In 1998 Wilson was the first to launch a website that sold salvage over the internet, opening a new door for the salvage business. The following year, was formed. Wilson later sold both companies and started Salvex, Inc. in 2002.

Salvex’s strategy is to partner with existing service and manufacturing companies dealing with asset recovery, insurance claims, bankruptcies, liens, and mishandled cargos to maximize recovery for their salvage goods. Their services include salvage appraisals, transportation and storage, asset & salvage recovery, research and product placement, and theft recovery. Like many companies across the country, the declining economy dramatically impacted their business causing Wilson to lay off most of his sales force. The silver lining came when he developed an innovative business model to incorporate a commission-based sales team. He restructured the company to incorporate a 100% commission model for his field agents. Salvex has grown from eight employees and field agents to eleven permanent employees and forty-two agents. With this new model, Wilson is able to employ more people and bring in industry specialists from all over the world. He plans to continue building the company to become fully integrated with the government and oil and gas industry and have an agent in every country. Wilson is currently pursuing another SBA loan to help with the expansion.

return top, "Cash, Not Pretense", March 2009

Compared with most businessmen, 41-year-old Charlie Wilson has some reason to like the economic downturn. President of Salvex, a Houston-based salvage firm he founded in 2002, Wilson has seen huge growth in the bankruptcy business over the past year. It is keeping his 10-person staff, and his 55 agents around the world, busy.

But the credit crunch still creates headaches for Wilson. With loans hard to secure, many would-be customers cannot bid on the merchandise in his inventory. "We are booming with more deals because people are defaulting," Wilson notes, "but the buyers are gun-shy because they can't get the money to pay."

So what do you do in these circumstances? Charlie Wilson is taking a back-to-basics approach. Rule No. 1: Stay away from people who rely on credit, not cash. This means private companies--including many outside the U.S.--are often better customers than larger, but now cash-strapped, public ones. "The further away I get from Wall Street, the better I feel," Wilson says.

Cheap is the new hip. Focus on cutting costs and streamlining operations. Don't spend money on unnecessary employees or hard infrastructure; use the Internet wherever possible. It helps, Wilson says, to be located in an affordable building and in a place, like Houston, where taxes, regulatory costs and rents are generally cheap. "I work out of a Class C building," he says, "and now everyone thinks it's sexy."

Expand your range of customers. Look for new customers who have cash resources and access to markets that are still growing. This has led Wilson to look outside the U.S, to places like India or China, where many companies still have cash and see the current crisis as a great opportunity for bargain hunting.

These three trends--the growing importance of cash, cost cutting and expanding one's customer base--are defining entrepreneurial response to the credit crash. All three trends can be seen in the strategies of entrepreneurs who are focusing on burgeoning, often cash-oriented immigrant markets.

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Purchasing Magazine

Purchasing Magazine, "Company carves niche in busy world of Net markets"

Charlie Wilson grew up in the salvage business. While other kids went off to camp, he spent summers traveling the world with his Dad, viewing the aftermath of factory explosions, hurricanes and train derailments. In college, Wilson studies technology. But after embarking briefly on a high-tech career, he returned to the roost in 1990, taking over the domestic portion of his father's Houston, Texas-based salvage business while his Dad pursued new business offshore. When his father died in 1995, Wilson took over the global piece of the business as well. From the beginning, Wilsn says he looked for ways to apply technology to an extremely low-tech business. He started by digitizing the copmany's base of insurance and other supply contacts and customers (he claims 7500-plus). He also began to standardize descriptions of the damaged or substandard goods he was buying and selling. In 1998, he launched a Web site because he was "tired of 'overnighting' photos to potential customers." When the idea of New marketplaces exploded on the global business scene, Wilson felt well positioned as a potential market maker, so he wrote a business plan and headed for Silicon Valley. Of the 46000 or so business plans submitted to, Wilson became one of the 55 to win funding and one of the first, he says proudly, "to come from outside the Valley." After five months performing competitve analysis, honing his business plan, and thinking of ways he might deliver value to the salvage industry, Wilson had a concept for He decided it would be too expensive to build the site in Silicon Valley, so, once again, he returned to Houston. There, he partnered with investor and internet startup "veteran" E. Scott Crist (aged 35, Crist is now co-chairman of On Crist's advice Wilson recruited Dan Parsley, a partner with CSC Consulting, to be president and COO.

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Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal, "What a Bargain", August 1997

Tired of the trinkets on eBay?.... There you can bid on such things as 20 metric tons of Bulgarian cherries in 80 plastic drums sitting in Houston. The two year-old cherries, with a wholesale value of $6,240, were rejected by the buyer who had been promised fresh cherries. Though "fit for human consumption," the seller recommends them for "hog or chicken feed." The company, Houston, also offers the chance to bid on abandoned industrial equipment and material damaged in rail-car derailments. Found Charlie Wilson, a longtime dealer in salvaged merchandise, says the service aims to consolidate the fragmented $50 Billion business of buying and selling deeply distressed stuff, the company typically gets a 10% commission, compared with the 40% commission usually taken by dealers, he says. The company gets most of its listings from insurers like Lloyd's of London which have paid off claims and hope to quickly recover what ever they can. Sellers aren't identified. Most goods are sold "as is, where is"

The Wall Street Journal, "The Entrepreneurial City", August 1997

But if these cowboy entrepreneurs might seem gruff to Ivy League M.B.A.s, young entrepreneurs have found many of them highly supportive of the upstarts rapidly transforming the city. The Greater Houston Partnership, a local nonprofit, even has programs for experienced executives to assist the new generation. Charlie Wilson, the 27-year-old founder of SeaRail International, a local salvage company, credits advice from older Houston entrepreneurs for helping maintain his focus in building his company. "Being an entrepreneur is essentially lonely but here you can be part of a community too," Mr. Wilson explains. "These guys put me on the spot all the time, challenging how I do my business. You build a real camaraderie with them. In some ways, Houston's still a small town where everyone knows everyone and people like to see other people succeed. It's part of the magic of the place."

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Entrepreneur Magazine, "Good Will Hunting", July 1998

Taking the high road: Charlie Wilson knows that good ethics fosters trust, loyalty and integrity – "the building blocks of a successful business. That's why social responsibility is part of this company's mission statement." But don't mistake Wilson for some born-again hippie or moralistic stick-in-the-mud. For him, it's all about success. "Ethics is what's spearheading our growth," says Wilson. "It creates an element of trust, familiarity and predictability in the business. We're in an industry where a lot of people cut corners. It's easy to misrepresent products and be less that upfront with customers about the condition of goods. I just don't think that's good for business. You don't get a good reputation doing things that way. And eventually, customers won't want to do business with you. Wilson included the following words in his company's mission statement: "We put social responsibility in front of profit." Although this is not exactly a specific plan of action, it guides many of the company's decisions. "Whenever we have to make a tough judgment call, we refer to our mission statement," he says. "Putting things down on paper helps set in stone what your standards are."… "I think about how I'm going to feel when I'm my mother's age-and my grandfather's age," says Wilson. "What will I think of the decisions I've made? How will I feel about the things I've done? If I can't feel proud, what god is it to have made a lot of money? It's in everyone's long-term interests to appreciate what they're doing and to feel good about what they're accomplishing here. Otherwise, what's the point?"

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Inc. Magazine, "The Best Small – Business Neighborhoods in America", July 1997

For Wilson – and many other Houstonians who noticed what he did – the city's problems provided the perfect backdrop for an entrepreneurial success. Wilson's company, brokers of salvage goods (damaged electronics, spilled rice). What he needed, Houston had: low-priced warehouse space; big-league transportation capabilities (Houston's oil money had built the nation's third-largest seaport and ninth-largest airport); plentiful and flexible labor (skilled and unskilled to work by the day, the week or month); and a business community that encourage him every step of the way….. Wilson also tapped some of Houston's most successful entrepreneurial pears, "Those guys put me put me on the spot all the time, challenging how I do business," Wilson says, "Don't get radical on me,' there always shouting. You build a real camaraderie with them. In some ways, everyone knows everyone and people like to see other people succeed. It's part of the magic of this place."

Inc. Magazine, "The 4 Best Small-Business Neighborhoods in America", July 1997

If you're like most people, what you picture is an overbuilt oil town gone suddenly bust—all glass towers and tall weeds. What Charlie Wilson saw was opportunity. "I started in 1990, right dab in the middle of the recession," recalls the 29-year-old entrepreneur at his warehouse office in an industrial district just beyond the downtown high-rises. "the oil boom, the same boom that built this town overnight, was shot. By the time I got started, the whole infrastructure was here, but prices had crashed and everything was cheap."

So for Wilson—and many other Houstonians who noticed what he did—the city's problems provided the perfect backdrop for an entrepreneurial success. Wilson's company, SeaRail International, brokers salvaged goods (damaged electronics, spilled rice." What he needed, Houston had: low-priced warehouse space; big-league transportation capabilities (Houston's oil money had built the nation's third-largest seaport and ninth largest airport); plentiful and flexible labor (skilled and unskilled to work by the day, the week, or the month); and a business community that encouraged him every step of the way. SeaRail's annual revenues have grown to $1.9 million, from $300,000 five years ago. And the city overall has seen a massive surge in business starts, producing one of the nation's most impressive economic turnarounds. Houston created more that 53,000 companies in 1996, ranking fourth among the nation's 200 largest metro areas in start-ups per capita.

Nevertheless, you won't often find Houston on lists of best business environments. And, indeed, for many companies it wouldn't belong there. What Charlie Wilson needs isn't necessarily what everyone else does. What's more, what Wilson needs isn't available only in Houston.

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The Port of Houston Magazine, "Houston's Wizards of Salvage", December 1997

"What is unique about our company is that we deal primarily with industrial products," says Wilson. "There are a lot of salvage companies out there that deal with retail products, such as clothing or finished goods. But we focus on industrial goods." Wilson learned the business from his father, who ran his own salvage business, handling mostly industrial chemicals, for 25 years. As a boy, Wilson spent summers working for his dad; as early as age 11, he was on the phone finding buyers for salvaged products. Wilson went on to start his own salvage company. "With as little money as I had, it was difficult, But I peddled my business as best as I could, down at the port and around the country," Wilson recalls. Wilson's father focused his business mostly on clients in Mexico and South America. He often traveled to Peru, Venezuela, and Argentina and taught his son the ropes of doing business in Latin America. When the elder Wilson died during a salvaging effort in Ecuador a few years ago, Charlie Wilson inherited many of his father's Latin American customers. "Doing business in South America was a little hard for me to bite off at first," recalls Wilson. "I had to go international very quickly." Wilson also inherited talent from his mother's side. His grandfather was head of the Navy team that developed the computer language COBOL, and his mother was a computer programmer for IBM and the World Bank. She taught her son how computers could greatly enhance his business. "We've already made money on our Web site. We really like it for communicating with contacts in South America and Mexico," Wilson says. "We want to go global. Recently I traveled to Hong Kong, and I was amazed at the opportunity that was there. Wilson says, "We have been successful because we are committed to bringing a professional approach to his industry. Many operators merely dabble in salvage brokering, running their companies as sideline business or hobbies. Deals are often negotiated verbally, with minimal documentation, and customers many not know just what they're getting. But Wilson has taken the business to another level, using computers to communicate with clients and find new business, implementing legal contracts with customers and ensuring cargo is carefully inspected before it is sold.

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Houston Business Journal, "Small Business Success Stories", May 1995

Staggering growth won his company the No. 13 spot on the 1993 Houston 100 list of fastest-growing small businesses; Wilson also appeared on the list in 1994 at the No. 41 position…. "Just about every company generates some kind of salvageable material," says Wilson, company president, "You just have to look in any truck going down the highway or ship coming into port and it's carrying something we can use."….Wilson's ingenuity and vision have earned him recognition as both SBA's Houston District Young Entrepreneur of the Year and the Texas Young Entrepreneur of the Year".

Houston Business Journal, "Return from Silicon Valley", July 2000

A modern day version of the Gold Rush has lured many hard-core entrepreneurs to California's Silicon Valley – where technology is a way of life and dot-com currency flows freely.

But a couple of Houston firms that were bitten by the West Coast bug found out the hard way that Silicon Valley is not necessarily the land of milk and honey. Shortly after relocating to the Internet capitol of the world both packed up their corporate bags and headed back to Houston.

Charlie Wilson, founder, co-chairman and CEO of, moved his headquarters back to Houston in February after five months in Northern California's Silicon Valley. He says he learned a lot from the experience, but financially it did not make sense to stay there.

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Business Standard, "Perceived scrap, hidden fortune", Aug 2007

Charlie Wilson is a man who has redefined the phrase "get the best out of waste". Wilson's company Comex International has been in the business of what he calls "salvage services" for about 16 years. But it has got going only in the last decade or so.

Comex operates just like e-bay, which operates as an online market with buyers and sellers participating in auctions of odd objects with no clear price (second hand bean bags and the like). The difference is that the bidding here is for scrap products. Says Wilson, CEO, Comex International, "We offer space for companies to sell off their surplus items or scrapped goods." For example, if an oil company's ship catches fire, then Comex would rework some of the equipment on board and invite bids for purchase on its website.

The business works in partnership with existing businesses that deal with insurance claims, bankruptcies, mishandled cargo and asset recovery agents. They all work together to salvage as much value as possible from damaged goods and the like. In a world where even minor defects can turn something into "scrap" in snooty perception, this is a lucrative business if you know how little it takes to get something up and running; Lakshmi Mittal, remember, made a fortunes tuning up creaky old steel mills others feared to touch. The story has got around, and while prejudice against this humble start persists in some ill-informed quarters, Mittal is now seen for what he is: a smart business man who delivers more bang for the buck.

Comex handles are from sectors like oil, textile, and machinery equipment-all sectors littered with hidden gems. The company claims unique ways to mach buyers and sellers through sophisticated database categorization, which pairs appropriate products for sale with the best potential buyers. Says Wilson, "This entire ‘exercise' is recycling at its optimum level, reaching all corners of the world."

Comex charges 10 percent from the total sale value, and Wilson claims that the website gets about 10,000 visits per month (Shell and Lloyds are clients). It's time India logged on too, he says having got a few local buyers and sellers already. He must reach out to a whole lot more. "We are looking at agents for setting up our Mumbai office." The potential, he adds, is huge. Now, if only the land of Lakshmi Mittal yields.

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Red Herring

Red Herring, "Salvage: In Sum, these parts are big business", Jan 2000 originally began its online presence as part of SeaRail International, a commercial salvage operation founded in 1990 by second-generation salvager Charles Wilson. In late 1999, Mr. Wilson partnered with venture capital investment bank, which helped him incorporate The assets of its erstwhile corporate parent repositioned it as an Internet based business-to-business exchange which would be more highly valued than a salvage company.

Six months and 3.3 million dollars in venture capital later, the site re-launched in its new form and has averaged four transactions a week, of which takes between 10 and 12.5 percent in commission.

The company hopes to become profitable by the end of 2001, but to do so it will have to dramatically increase the volume of sales that pass through the site. Fans seem ready to believe that will be able to pull this off. The company just finished raising a second round of venture funding totaling 17 million, so evidently’s backers feel confident that the company won’t be forced to sell it s own assets for salvage anytime soon.

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Insurance Day

Insurance Day, "Sophisticated dotcoms go for the customers", September 2000

DOTCOM stocks may be out of favor on Wall Street at the moment, but there is growing evidence that greater use of the Internet will yield major benefits for marine, energy and insurance players, writes Claire Wilkinson.

In the past few years, several web based initiatives have sprung up that claim to be delivering more efficient and cost-effective solutions to their clients.

One such venture is, whose founder, Charles Wilson, started the salvage broker SeaRail International in 1990. Last November, Mr. Wilson formed, which has since acquired the assets of SeaRail.

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Press Release - Comex International launches its services in the Middle East

Comex International recently launched the first business-to-business online salvage company in the Middle East designed to sell commercial assets for major corporations, insurance companies, and governments. Charlie Wilson, president of Comex, said, “We feel the leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have made substantial investments in their local economies and have diversified their countries beyond the traditional one-dimensional oil industry. They have created incentives like free trade zones, tax incentives, and local infrastructures that are inviting to American businesses large and small. This has encouraged Comex International to bring its services to the region.” Comex first considered doing business in the Middle East two years and have now decided to invest in a permanent presence in the region.

Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce

The Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (BUSACC) recently conducted a highly successful Trade Mission from Texas to the Middle East in which Comex participated. The trip was led by Michael Williams, the Texas Railroad Commissioner who held several meetings with U.S. government representatives, respected regional leaders, Arab businesses and American and Arab chambers of commerce. The Trade Mission included 29 delegates, the largest business group ever to travel to the Middle East from Texas. Wilson commented, “After meetings with the embassies, chambers of commerce, and political leaders in Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, we feel that we have a good perspective regarding the opportunities and risks. Comex International’s experience was a successful one; we secured new representation in Dubai and have many new business leads.” In relation to our own local history, Charlie quotes, “The region reminds us of Houston in the late 80’s when oil prices crashed and the city made a large investment in diversifying its economy. We see this trend occurring in the Middle East, where the local leadership is diversifying its economy through investment and incentives to grow beyond their traditional oil industries.”

Comex International is a business-to-business online salvage company that sells commercial assets from insurance claims, asset recovery, end of life assets and surplus equipment. They operate a web site to sell the products posted by the various companies and governments. Charlie Wilson is founder and CEO of Comex International, a global leader in the sale of commercial salvage over the Internet for insurance, transportation companies, bankruptcies, government surplus and oilfield equipment. Wilson created one of the first online commerce exchange sites in 1996, which has changed the dynamics of the entire industry, bringing sellers and buyers together to sell commercial assets throughout the world. Backed by 40 years of experience, Wilson has handled some of the most complicated and comprehensive salvage operations in history. He managed the largest marine container loss in history, the sale of assets from major hurricanes and other natural disasters. He has built salvage solutions for Fortune 500 companies and recovered millions of dollars for many commercial industries.

Comex International sells most of its products online at, which is backed by a large comprehensive buyer database. The database is populated with the world’s secondary buyers of commercial assets, who are notified instantly when products become available. The result is a competitive auction-driven marketplace that maximizes monetary return directly to the bottom line of the seller. Comex International handles a variety of commodities from oilfield equipment and machinery to building materials, raw materials and consumer goods. Comex International’s professional approach to the industry is enhanced by its commitment to social responsibility, which includes brand protection for the sellers, trade compliance issues and recycling commitment. - March 2005

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The Journal of Commerce, "When Cargo Crashes, there is salvation"

Whether the damage is from the leaking container on a ship, a fire on a barge, damaged electronics in a tractor trailer crash or hazardous materials in train derailment, Mr. Wilson makes a living from finding buyers for those goods. "There are not a lot of people doing commercial transport," said Roger Iverson, vice president in Springfield, Mo., for the marine division for Intermodal Transportation Services, (now SGS) an international insurance surveyor based in Parisippany, N.Y. Hired to help minimize the losses for insurers, surveyors like Mr. Iverson turn to the company agents to help minimize their own losses. In the past insurers frequently accepted the loss. But today, they are looking to get some value out of the damaged goods…..Up until 1990's, a loss was generally written off as just that and the brunt related business and companies who disposed of the damaged goods. But as government regulation of hazardous materials and waste grew in the late 1980's and early 1990's, the demand for not only sale of damaged goods but disposal of remainder also grew. "Throwing something away these days is not just throwing it in a landfill. These landfills and are very particular about what they'll take," said Mr. Lajmer a veteran insurance adjuster adding that, "there is greater regulatory oversight on disposal of materials removed from an accident scene."

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