S. Fla. business owner held hostage in China back home
FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Fla. (WSVN) -- A South Florida business owner who was held hostage by his employees for several days in China is now back on U.S. soil.
A captive no more, 43-year-old Chip Starnes returned to South Florida, Thursday night. When asked how it felt to be back home, Starnes responded: "Fantastic! Unbelievable, unbelievable."
A small crowd of family, friends and supporters greeted Starnes when he arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport late Thursday night.
However, no one was more happy to see him than his wife Cecily. "Hey, babe," Starnes said to his wife.
Starnes and other family members, including his brother and parents, were also thrilled to see him. "I think I got an understanding of how my parents felt when I spent a couple of years in Vietnam, and he was only there for six days," said Dan Starnes.
Starnes' mother called it "great" to have her son back home, and his brother said he just wants to have a drink with him. "Oh, man, I'm ready to have a beer with him," he said.
Starnes said he is relieved to be back home with his loved ones and be able to move around freely. "Big time relieved to see everybody here," he said. "I can actually get a pizza, walk across the road or do something if I want to."
For nearly a week, workers at the Specialty Medical Supplies factory near Beijing, China held their boss, Starnes, hostage, demanding compensation packages after rumors spread that the company was shutting down. "I was put in a situation where I was being shaken down, forced to pay severance to people who have jobs over they might have been scared about something they thought we were going to do that we were not going to do."
The Coral Springs company is not releasing the terms of the deal. However, a picture of the director of the Chinese Labor Bureau smiling speaks volumes.
While his factory is staying put, Starnes must now decide if he will ever visit China again. "I've got a business over there. I've got assets over there," he said. "That's something I'll be discussing over the next couple days with my business partners."
There's little rest ahead for the weary Starnes. He plans to be back at his local office Friday afternoon.
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