Millinocket officials to weigh investor’s interest in Katahdin Region mills

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted April 19, 2011, at 3:37 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders will meet behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss a potential investor’s interest in purchasing the Katahdin Region’s two paper mills, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.

Conlogue did not want to give the impression, however, that any sort of deal to purchase the mills was imminent, or even necessarily likely.

“There will be no decisions made as a result of tonight’s meeting,” he said Tuesday.

State and regional leaders have been working to find a buyer for the East Millinocket and Millinocket mills since Meriturn Partners of San Francisco withdrew on April 8 from efforts to buy the mills. The mills’ current owner, Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto, had offered to sell the mills to Meriturn for $1 by April 29.

Meriturn dropped its tentative agreement to buy the mills because customers were starting to leave the East Millinocket mill in search of other vendors, and the conditions the firm needed for success weren’t occurring quickly enough, Meriturn leader Lee C. Hansen said.

The East Millinocket mill, which made newsprint and telephone directory paper, has been shut down since April 1, laying off about 450 workers. The Millinocket mill, which employed about 150, has been closed since September 2008.

Workers at the East Millinocket mill have had work sessions with Maine Department of Labor officials in which the workers have expressed fears that the recent mill closure would create a mass exodus from the region.

Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development have pledged to do what they can for the region to find a new buyer or revitalize the regional economy. Former Gov. John Baldacci has said that the mills had generated a great deal of interest among potential buyers, although only Meriturn got to the point of signing an intent to purchase agreement, and that process took months.

Brookfield officials have said they would delay until at least April 29 any efforts to scrap the mills to help the search for a new owner and suggested that the state should buy them. Conlogue has said that a new buyer could be ready for introductions to Brookfield by then.

The Town Council executive session will start at 6 p.m., following a two-hour budget workshop. Conlogue said no public statements would follow the closed-door meeting.

East Millinocket Administrative Assistant Shirley Tapley and Mark Scally, chairman of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/04/19/business/millinocket-officials-to-weigh-investor%e2%80%99s-interest-in-katahdin-region-mills/ printed on October 21, 2014