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Former Distribution Exec Missing in South Carolina

GREENVILLE, SC - James Cockman, 71, former chairman and ceo of PYA/Monarch, disappeared last Friday as a result of what authorities here said might have been foul play.

Cockman has been missing since a planned meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, with a couple interested in buying his sport utility vehicle. Around 9:45 a.m. on that day he bought a cup of coffee at a convenience store near a lot where he was supposed to meet the buyers.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office is looking at the case as a possible abduction and "there's a strong possibility of foul play," Sgt. Shea Smith was quoted as saying.

Friends of Cockman have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

The FBI joined the investigation at the request of the sheriff's office.

Cockman came to Greenville in 1985 as chairman and chief executive of Sara Lee's PYA/Monarch division, then became chairman of Sara Lee Foodservice before retiring in 1992. Foodservice industry insiders have said that Cockman was a well-like executive and a lovely man.

Renowned chef Paul Prudhomme was trying to spread the word about Cockman's disappearance. Prudhomme has known Cockman about 15 years since the two served together on the board of directors at the California Culinary Academy of San Francisco, said Shawn McBride, ceo of Prudhomme's company Magic Seasoning Blends. The New Orleans-based company planned to send an e-mail to customers to inform them about the case, McBride said.

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