Businessman finally free from captivity in China

U.S. businessman fought to stay 'sane in an insane situation'

By Jennifer Jacobs - Producer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A U.S. company boss who was held hostage in China for nearly a week arrived in South Florida early Friday morning. 

Chip Starnes was greeted by family and friends at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

When asked to describe the kidnapping, Starnes told Local 10, "One word: nightmare. Absolute nightmare."

Starnes said that at one point, he "absolutely" thought he was going to die.

"Going into six and a half days, it was time to try to make something happen. Until I actually got the media on my side, it kind of leveraged the playing field and got attention to Beijing to try to force something to happen. And that did happen in terms of the amount of money I was being extorted for so at least we didn't have to pay as much."

He explained that fought to stay "sane in an insane situation."

On Thursday, Starnes said he and a union representative resolved the pay dispute with the Chinese workers who had been detaining him at a Beijing plant. They reached a deal overnight on Thursday to pay the scores of workers who had demanded severance packages similar to ones given to laid-off co-workers in a phased-out division, even though the company said the remaining workers weren't being laid off.

About 100 workers were demanding back pay and severance packages identical to those offered 30 workers being laid off from the Coral Springs, Florida-based company's plastics division.

Neither Starnes, nor district labor official Chu Lixiang gave details of the agreed compensation. Chu said all of the workers would be terminated, and Starnes said some of them would be rehired later.

Chu told reporters that the dispute was resolved "to each side's satisfaction."

Starnes maintains his ethical business practices.

"It was absolutely not true at all. I was put in a situation where I was being shaken down and forced to pay severances to people who have jobs."

As for going back to China, Starnes says he needs to meet with his business partners to make a joint decision.

"We have a lot of decisions to make. It's better to make it not penned up in there."

For now, Starnes is going to focus on being back home with his family.

"It's a big time relief to see everyone here and go get a pizza and actually walk across the road and do something if I wanted to," said Starnes.

--Family friends of Chip Starnes show up at FLL to welcome him home.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.